Category Archives: BCM

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2016/03/31 (R) Historic Cocoa Village

I got up briefly at 6:30 AM to close the roof vents as a stray rain shower drifted over Jetty Park (JP).  I got up again around 7 to put some fresh food in the cats’ bowls so they would stop trying to get us up and then went back to bed.  Linda was up around 7:30 AM to take her last steroid pill and I finally got up to stay at 8:30.  I walked over to the office around 9:15 but it was closed until noon for store inventory.  I knew that from yesterday but had forgotten.  I walked back to our coach and brewed a pot of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe half-caffe coffee, which was much better than the office coffee anyway.

It was sunny but humid this morning and by 10 AM it was up into the 80’s in the coach so we closed up and turned on the air-conditioners.  Linda has been doing accounting work for the bakery but was waiting on a document from the controller so she walked over to use the shower facilities.  I worked on filling in yesterday’s blog post until she returned and then I walked over to get my shower.  Back at the coach I exchanged text messages and phone calls with Vickie regarding plans for today while Linda exchanged text messages with Mara regarding a possible meetup next week.

A small part of downtown Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

Pat and Vickie picked us up at noon and drove to Historic Cocoa Village on the mainland.  It was all boutique shopping and restaurants but still quaint and interesting enough.  Linda located The Garden of Eden Cafe and Bakery on Happy Cow but it was no longer in business and we ended up driving back to a Steak ‘n Shake on Merritt Island for lunch.  It was right on the 520 Causeway so it was very convenient.  Linda, Vickie, and I had garden salads and Pat had a hamburger.  I also ordered onion rings.  The salads were good but the onion rings were some of the worst I’ve ever had.  They were very greasy which was probably due to the fry oil not being hot enough.

We stopped at the Ron Jon Surf Shop (RJSS) in Cocoa Beach on the way back.  In the six years that Pat and Vickie have been coming to JP they had never visited the RJSS.  Linda wandered away from the group so I followed her, after which we could not find Pat and Vickie.  It turned out that they also got separated.  The store is big, with two floors, but not THAT big.  It is, however, crammed full of merchandise and the layout made it hard to see most of the store from any given vantage point.  It was also packed with people, which further obscured my view, but through text messages and phone calls we eventually all ended up in the same place and finally drove back to JPCG.

A little piece of Florida charm in Historic Cocoa Village, Florida.

It turned out to be a very warm, humid, partly cloudy day and we were glad we had closed up our coaches and turned on the air-conditioners before we left.  Jasper and Juniper were glad too, and also glad to see us.  I walked over to the office to see if any full hookup sites had opened up, but they had not.  There wasn’t anyone else in the lounge area so I switched the TV to The Weather Channel to get a sense of the national and local weather situation.  A line of strong to severe storms was draped from Michigan’s thumb all the way to the Gulf of Mexico at the Texas/Louisiana border.  It was moving east across the continent with numerous severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, and a few tornado watches and warnings, ahead of it.  The northern tip looked like it would pass through our hometown but be below severe intensity.

Back at the coach Linda had resumed working on accounting for the bakery.  I checked e-mail, replied to one from Gary at BCM, and then logged into RVillage to deal with another one.  Scott and Tami had requested to join the CCO group, which is private, so I had to approve their request.   I also updated our checkout date at JP to Wednesday, April 6.  I updated the Excel spreadsheet that I use to track water/tank/softener usage and was just finishing up when I spotted the Carnival Victory cruise ship coming down the shipping channel from its dock at Port Canaveral.  I grabbed the camera and hurried over while Linda locked the bus and followed me.

It was hazy due to the heat and humidity but I clicked off a few photos anyway.  We knew that one of the Disney cruise ships would also be setting sail shortly so we stuck around the channel and walked down towards the pier looking for a better/different vantage point.  These ships always leave between 5 and 5:30 PM heading east down the channel so it is not an ideal time of day to photograph them as we are looking northwest if we want to see the bow.  Once they pass us we are looking northeast with the sun over our left shoulder so the lighting is much better.  I might do better driving up to the Exploration Tower area of the Port and trying to photograph the Disney ships as the leave the dock.  There’s a lot more ‘stuff’ up there (boats buildings, cranes, etc.) to provide foreground and framing, but it might also just obscure the view.  I won’t know which it is unless I investigate it, which I probably will not do on this visit.

At 5:30 PM I spotted the Disney Magic coming out of its terminal basin into the main channel.  It took a while to get into position for the photographs I wanted to take.  After it cleared the shoreline and another set of buoys it turned southeast.  Linda checked the schedule latter and found out it was headed for the Bahamas on a three night cruise.  She also learned that the Magic and the Dream are the only Disney Cruise Line ships that sail from Port Canaveral, which explained why we saw them as often as we did.

A Little Blue Heron by the jetty and shipping channel. Jetty Park, Cape Canaveral, FL.

We headed back up the channel towards the west and stopped when I spotted the dorsal fin of a dolphin breaking the surface of the water by the entrance to the submarine turning basin.  We saw it three or four times as it headed back towards the ocean but then it disappeared.  While we were standing there chatting with a local resident a Little Blue Heron flew over and landed about five feet away from me.  It was looking for a handout, which we did not have, but I was able to walk around it and photograph it from different directions for a few minutes before it flew off in search of better prospects.

Back at our coach I worked on this post while Linda started preparing dinner.  She decided to make angel hair pasta with garlic, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes.  It’s a favorite “go to” meal that is relatively quick and easy to prepare but absolutely delicious.  Because of our late lunch, eaten between 2 and 3 PM, we did not have dinner until 7:30 PM.

After dinner we turned on the TV and put on our usual Thursday evening comedy programs.  I needed to proofread and edit a short article that someone else wrote for BCM but did not feel like doing it this evening.  I also needed to off-load today’s photos from my camera to my computer and Vickie wanted a picture of the manatees from the Merritt Island NWR, but I deferred all of that to tomorrow.  I did, however, fill in today’s activities in my blog post.  That is something I can comfortably do on my iPad while watching TV.

Around 9 PM it was still 76 degrees F outside but we turned off the air-conditioners and opened up the coach anyway.  The temperature was forecast to only drop to about 70 but we figured we would be comfortable enough, preferring fresh air and roof vent fan noise to recirculated air and the roar of the air-conditioner evaporator fans.

Around 10 PM Linda started the update of her iPad to iOS 9.3.  That took over an hour and when it finally rebooted her tablet she went to bed.  I watched channel 6.1 (CBS) long enough to see the weather forecast and then switched to 24.1 (PBS) to watch Charlie Rose.  At midnight I tuned in The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for a few minutes and then went to bed and fell asleep.

 

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2016/03/27 (N) Squirrel Nuts

Jasper started trying to get my attention around 7:15 AM.  He comes up close to my head on either side to get his head “scritched” and goes eyeball-to-eyeball with me from just a few inches away.  I finally got up at 7:30 AM and Linda got up around the same time.  She took her morning medications and returned to her seat bed while I tended to the cats’ food, water, and litter tray.  Linda was hungry and wanted breakfast so I cut the grapefruit in half only to find out that she cannot have grapefruit while taking the steroids.  No problem, it needed to be eaten and I can certainly eat an entire small grapefruit all by myself.

I did not feel like getting dressed right away to walk over to the office and get a couple of cups of free, but not very tasty, coffee so I ground up some of our beans and made a pot.  I have not done that since we got to Jetty Park and it was nice to have our own, special coffee again.  Once the coffee was brewed I plugged in the toaster and heated a couple of cinnamon raisin bagels for breakfast.  Linda went back to sleep after breakfast while I lingered on the sofa, enjoying my coffee, working on my blog post drafts, and playing a few games.  I eventually got a shower, got dressed, and took the trash to the dumpster.

The long range forecast was for afternoon high temperatures in the mid-80’s, plus or minus, with high humidity and rain chances.  The TV weather people have been describing the current whether as “summer like” which simply confirms for me that Florida is not someplace I want to be in the summer.  (Overnight low temperatures at home, however, are still dropping below freezing, so we are OK with where we are.)  I am tired of listening to our air-conditioners but this was going to be a mostly stay-at-home day given the weather conditions, the fact that Linda is not up for going anywhere or doing anything, and that today is Easter Sunday and many businesses are closed, even in Cocoa Beach.  At least the air-conditioners are keeping the humidity in the coach at a comfortable level, it’s the evaporator fan noise that is irritating.

A stay-at-home day is usually a good opportunity to upload some more posts to our blog and update the BCM page on our website.  The posts for the last third of December 2015 still needed to be edited before uploading so I started working on them.  I had just finished the ones for the 21st and 22nd when Linda wanted to go for a walk.  We walked over to the dumpsters to throw away our daily bag of trash and then walked to Pat and Vickie’s site where we found them sitting outside in the shade but without any breeze.  They decided to join us on our walk and we headed to the beach.  There was a steady offshore breeze but the sun was hot so we headed back to the campground in search of shade and a breeze.

We found both on the other side of the street from our site.  We got out our four folding chairs and set them up over there along with our little plastic folding table.  Yes, we own an old Prevost, but in many other ways are RVing lives are simple.  Vickie went back to their coach and returned with a beer (Leinenkugel’s Cranberry Ginger Shandy) and a bag of pretzels.  At the same time I brought out pretzel nibblers, peanuts, and almonds along with water for Linda and a beer for me (Yuengling Traditional Lager).

The air temperature was in the lower 80’s with somewhat elevated humidity, but we sat in the shade with the cool, pleasant breeze enjoying our snacks and beverages.  The squirrels here are used to people and one approached quite close to us looking for a handout.  For whatever reason I decided to share the remaining peanuts with it, which immediately attracted a couple more squirrels.  When I ran out I went inside and got more and washed off some grapes.  When the squirrels started having a territorial dispute over the peanuts I decided to quit feeding them.  About that same time we were all feeling a bit tired (relaxed?) and decided to go take naps.  Naps are good; I like naps.

At 5 PM we walked over to the shipping channel to see if one of the Disney Cruise Line ships was departing.  We got to watch The Disney Magic come all the way down the channel, led by the harbor pilot boat and followed by the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas.  As the Magic was just rounding the bend from its dock into the straight portion of the channel someone spotted a pair of dolphins swimming up the channel.  We saw their dorsal fins but I was not able to get a photo of them.  After the two cruise ships were clear of the channel we walked to the pier.  Along the way the tugboat American Champion pulled in a barge with Scow 6 stenciled on the side.  A small derrick boat then came in from the ocean and a little while later chugged back out again.

By 6:30 PM Linda was thinking about her next steroid pill, which she had to take after dinner, so we walked back to our coach.  A can of Amy’s Chili with some Soup & Oyster Crackers made for a quick, easy, tasty meal along with some black grapes.  After dinner I was able to tune in one of the PBS affiliates.  We watched a documentary on Harry Gordon Selfridge and Selfridge’s Department Store in London, England.  That was followed by an episode of Grantchester, another of the BBC Masterpiece Mystery series.  We split an apple for a late night snack.  At 10 PM we switched to CBS and watched an episode of Elementary followed by the evening news, during which Linda converted the living room captain’s chairs into her nighttime convalescence bed.

The only part of the news that interested yes was the weather as a significant front was draped from northeast to southwest and pushing east out of the Gulf of Mexico across central and northern Florida with heavy rain and lots of lightening.  The TV weatherman said it would impact Orlando between midnight and 3 AM before finally moving out into the Atlantic Ocean.  I figured that meant any impact on us wouldn’t start until at least 1 AM and peak between 3 and 4.  Once I had a sense of the weather I turned off the lights in the front of the coach and retired to the bedroom for the evening.  I did not feel like writing or playing games so I flipped channels for a while.  I could not tune in either of the PBS affiliates, and nothing else caught my interest, so I turned off the TV and the lights and went to sleep.

2016/03/28 (M) ENT Markets

I was up at 7 AM and discovered that Linda had also just gotten up to take her morning steroids.  I put on my robe, put away the clean dishes from last night, fed the cats, cleaned the litter tray, and made a pot of coffee.  Once the coffee was brewed I toasted the last two cinnamon raisin bagels and we had those for breakfast.  After breakfast Linda played word games and I finished up yesterday’s blog post draft.

After two days of steroids Linda’s voice and hearing were slightly improved, but not much, and she continues to be tired, even listless, and sleep off and on through the day.  Today, however, she got dressed and settled in to work at her computer reconciling our charge receipts and bank balances.

We had decided that we would leave Jetty Park on Friday and were discussing where we might go next.  We knew that Linda needed a follow up appointment with her ENT back home so I called to arrange that.  We were surprised to find out that Linda’s ENT, Dr. Michael Seidman, was no longer at Henry Ford.  I was able to get an appointment with a different ENT for late April, but in the course of doing that I found out that Dr. Seidman had moved his practice to Celebration, Florida.  That’s the home of Disney World and is only about 50 miles from where we are camped!

By searching online we located the practice Dr. Seidman has joined, the Head and Neck Surgery Center of Florida (HNSCF), which is affiliated with Florida Hospital, a 7th Day Adventist facility.  I called and was informed that Tuesday, April 5 was the first day he would be seeing patients, so apparently his relocation was in-process.  We got an appointment for 11 AM.  The clinic asked me to contact HFHS and request a copy of Linda’s medical records which I decided to take care of later.  For now our immediate concern was figuring out where we were going to be camped between now and then.

At about this time Vickie called to let me know they had decided to leave on Monday, April 4 and that we could have their site starting that day if we wanted.  The trick was that we needed to go to the office together so she could cancel their reservation starting that day and I could immediately pick it up.  That prompted me to meet her and Pat at the office where I signed up for site #303 for Monday and Tuesday evenings with departure on Wednesday, April 6.

We were already set to move to site #358 tomorrow at noon for three nights so I needed a site for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.  The only sites that were big enough to accommodate our bus and available for all three nights were in the boondocking area by the shipping channel.  I preferred that to having to move one or two extra times, and trying to squeeze into sites that were marginal in size, so Pat, Vickie, and I walked out to look at the available sites.  I selected site #3 and went back in to complete the registration process.  Vickie thought we would enjoy being parked with a view of the channel and Pat noted that the lack of trees was offset by a constant breeze.  We would also be parked facing north, so we would not have the sun on our windshields.  It came up later that we might have tried Sherwood Forest RV Park near Celebration, but at this point I did not want to move the bus very far prior to Linda’s appointment and risk having a problem which I would then have to deal with.

With all of the reservations taken care of I returned to our coach and explained the arrangements to Linda and then settled in at my computer to edit the blog posts for the last nine days of December 2015.  Around 2 PM I called the Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield ENT clinic to request a copy of Linda’s medical records be faxed to the Head and Neck Surgery Center of Florida.  I was transferred to the medical records department, where I was informed that they could not send records to a hospital or clinic based on a patient request and that the request would have to come directly from the receiving clinic.  The medical records clerk provided me with a phone number for the clinic to use.  We had exchanged a couple of e-mails with Sylvia at HNSCF so I replied to one of them with the relevant information.

Mid-afternoon Vickie called again to see if we wanted to ride to town with them.  Linda was feeling up to it so we agreed to go.  Our first stop was at the Sunseed Food CO-OP on N. Atlantic Avenue.  We bought a few things that did not need refrigeration and Linda made note of their extensive selections of Amy’s frozen entrees and pizzas as well as the Coconut Bliss non-dairy ice cream.  Out next stop was the small Coastal Produce market in downtown Cocoa Beach where Linda and Vickie bought some fresh produce.  We stopped at Sunseed Food CO-OP again on the way back to the campground and stocked up on Amy’s frozen entrees, got a couple of pizzas, two pints of non-dairy ice cream, and some nutritional yeast.  Vickie also bought some nutritional yeast as she had seen several recipes that called for it but was not familiar with it.

On the way back to Jetty Park Pat detoured through the western end of Port Canaveral on the south side of the shipping channel to show us the various dining options (restaurants, bars, and grills) located there.  The Disney Cruise Line terminals are a bit farther west and on the other side of the channel but we did not drive over there as we had fresh and frozen food that needed to get into our refrigerators and freezers.

With the food put away I resumed editing my blog posts from late December and managed to finish the one for December 31st just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.  I pushed the wrong button on the convection microwave oven and screwed up the sequence but the pizza still came out OK.  The fact that she felt like fixing dinner at all was one of the first good signs we have had in two weeks regarding her health.  Dinner wasn’t fancy, just a nice salad and vegan pizza, but it was tasty and it was nice to sit at the table and eat it.

After dinner we met up with Vickie and went for a long, slow walk.  Linda got to see site #3 and thought it would be nice for three nights.  We also walked the entire length of the paved sidewalk that meanders through the southern edge of the park property and saw lots of the feral cats that live here.  The cats are fed by official volunteers and we spotted numerous plastic bowls at several locations with cats hanging about nearby.  (My understanding is that feral cats and not “wild” cats; they are domestic cats that have returned to the wild.)  When we eventually made it to the beach the ocean was just an hour past low tide so there was more beach exposed than we had yet seen.  There were dark clouds visible from southwest to northwest moving slowly east so we walked north along the beach and the over the dunes to the concession building.  Linda spotted the sun just setting and it was enormous and orange-red.  We scurried up to the observation deck to get a better look and tried to take a few photos with our smartphones.  They generally capture good images with proper exposure, but the correct exposure for sunsets and sunrises can be very tricky.

With the sun out of sight we walked back along the channel to the campground office where Vickie and I each got a cup of coffee.  We then headed back towards our coach and finally went our separate ways at the fork in the road.  We were back at our coach at 8 PM and turned on the TV to watch our Monday night CBS shows.  Almost all of our TV viewing this winter has been CBS and PBS and we have been fortunate to be able to receive these signals almost everywhere.  Linda decided to try sleeping in bed for the first time in a week.  I watched the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert but turned the TV off at midnight and went to sleep.

 

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2016/03/09 (W) Groveland, Publix, Updates

I was busy interacting with Bill and Brenda, and photographing their work, for much of the morning yesterday as well as diagnosing/fixing the problem with the charger section of the Magnum 4024.  The charger problem took me past lunchtime and a return call to John Palmer to let him know that it was resolved, at least for now.  We were sitting during the afternoon when Joan and Bill (from Boston) stopped by with their miniature schnauzer, Toby, and sat awhile to visit.  As a result I did not start working on yesterday’s blog post until after we had eaten dinner and gone for a walk.  I was up until The Late Show with Stephen Colbert ended at 12:30 AM (on Wednesday) but did not quite finish the post.

For the record, the Magnum 4024 appears to be working again (for now) and the house batteries were back up to full charge by last evening.  After much consternation yesterday the “fix” turned out to just be a reset of the unit.  The “trick” was following the directions in the manual.  Easy enough to do, and it doesn’t require very many words to describe, but it took a lot of time to get to that point and rule out other possible problems.

We were both feeling tired this morning, and perhaps a bit lazy, and did not get up until 8 AM.  While Linda made oatmeal from scratch with raisins, dates, and walnuts I fiddled with the rear TV and antenna trying to tune in stations.  I tried using the www.antennapoint.com website to locate TV transmitter towers but it said there weren’t any within 60 miles.  I knew that wasn’t true and I have had problems with this website the last few times I have tried to use it, so I’m done with it and used the TVFool.com website instead.  It found four dozen towers within 60 miles, but none closer than 53 miles.  Most of the stations were in three clusters, generally corresponding to Tampa (195 degrees), Ocala (350 degrees), and Orlando (90 degrees).

We have the front antenna at position ‘8’ which is approximate the 2 o’clock direction relative to the nose of the bus, which is the 12 o’clock position, and is currently pointing south of due west at 255 degrees.  That means the antenna is pointed in the general direction of the Ocala area stations, but we seem to only be picking up the Tampa area stations with signals that are strong enough to lock onto.

The rear TV/antenna is finding signals from both Tampa and Ocala but is unable to lock on to any of them.  I turned it to position ’14’, which is approximately the 6:30 orientation on the bus and corresponded to east, towards Orlando.  When I rescanned I was finally able to pick up some stations that the TV could lock onto.  The rear TV antenna, however, has been defective since the day I installed it which was, unfortunately, over a year after I purchased it.  Thus, it was out of warranty before I ever applied power to it.

When I was done playing with the TV I made our morning coffee and we sat down to breakfast while the coffee brewed.  After breakfast Linda played her morning word games while I finished yesterday’s blog post and started today’s post.  Linda made a grocery list and then got dressed and went for a walk while I continued to write.

Linda located a Publix supermarket on FL-50 in Groveland approximately 3/4 of the way to Clermont.  The city of Clermont is about 23 miles east of Webster and a few miles west of US-27.  It is the historic center of the Florida citrus industry and a place we plan to visit at least once while we are staying at Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort (FGMCR).

US-27 is the highway we used to go to South Florida several times last month.  It runs northwest from Miami and then turns north, more or less paralleling the Atlantic coast of Florida some distance inland.  It passes along the west edge of Lake Okeechobee and passes near a string of towns that include Sebring, Frostproof, and Winter Haven before reaching the Clermont area.  From there it turns northwest and runs through Ocala and Williston, eventually reaching Branford where it turns more westerly towards Mayo and the Florida panhandle.  Having spent winter 2014 in Williston, traveled home by way of the panhandle, and then returned to Williston by way of Mayo for Dec 2015, we have probably traveled as many miles on US-27 in Florida as we have on I-75 or any other particular road.

We left at 10:15 AM to drive to the Publix.  We headed west back into Webster, dropped south on FL-471 about 5 miles to FL-50, and headed east.  It was a nice drive on FL-50 eastbound and the terrain became slightly hilly as we passed through Mascotte just before reaching the supermarket on the west side of Groveland.  We were back at our coach around 12:30 PM and split an apple for lunch.

We both had multiple updates pending for our iPad and smartphone apps, and numerous updates for the Windows 10 OS on our laptop computers, so we wanted to use the resort Wi-Fi to download and install the updates.  I shut down and packed up our computers and iPads and we drove over to the library room in the clubhouse.  I checked the Wi-Fi signal strength with my phone and it was strong enough to use so we set up all of our devices.

I did not count them all, but I estimated that we had between 60 and 70 updates across our six devices, requiring somewhere between 1.5 and 2.0 GB of data.  Linda’s updates completed smoothly and more quickly than mine as my ASUS laptop appeared to hang up on the download of the OS update.  I ultimately shut down and restarted my computer to get things moving along again.

As we were getting near the end of the process the Internet connection went out.  We were still connected to the Wi-Fi but had no Internet access so I walked around to the office to see if they knew about it and needed to reset the gateway.  They did know about it because it affected them too, and Joann said it happens with some regularity, often around mid-afternoon.  By the time I returned to the library the connection had been restored.  Linda walked back to our coach at 3:30 PM but it took me until 4:30 PM to complete my computer updates.

After I got back to our coach and set up my computer we went for a walk around the resort.  Back at our coach I off-loaded the photos I took on Monday and Tuesday from my camera to my computer.  I processed one of Mara, Michael, Linda, and me (that was taken by someone at the RV park) and e-mailed it to Mara.  I processed three photos of our bus at our site at Florida Grande and five photos of the window covers that Bill and Brenda Phelan made for use yesterday.  I uploaded the photos to a couple of Dropbox folders and e-mailed the links to Brenda, Chuck Spera, and Ed Roelle.

For dinner Linda made a salad with a kale and arugula base, tomatoes, almonds, dried cranberries, and firm teriyaki tofu, and used an Asian sesame dressing.  So good.  Dessert was fresh strawberries, blueberries, and bananas.  After dinner we poured a couple of small glasses of white wine and sat outside enjoying the cool night breeze and looking at the stars.  We agreed that it was the first night since we arrived in Florida on December 1st that the weather conditions seemed perfect for just sitting outside after sunset.  We also agreed that our initial experience of FGMCR is very positive.

I texted Al Hesselbart to see if he is still at Breezy Oaks near Bushnell.  If he is we will probably drive over there tomorrow for the 2 PM music jam and then go to dinner.  I checked my e-mail and had replies from Ed Roelle and Brenda Phelan.  I also had one from Christy Budai letting me known that the chapter certification paperwork for our FMCA GLCC chapter had finally been submitted.

We do not have the same TV stations here that we had in Arcadia and the PBS stations we can get do not carry the same programming.  That left us without our usual Wednesday evening science and nature shows.  Linda is tired most nights by 10 PM and headed off to bed before 10:30.  I stayed up working on this post and caught some news, weather, and the beginning of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

2016/03/10 (R) Coyote Rojo Redux

I was up at 7:15 AM and Linda got up a few minutes later.  I did not start recharging the Verizon Mi-Fi soon enough last night, and did not leave it plugged in overnight, so the battery died and it went offline sometime before I got up.  I plugged the charger back in, got our network back online, and then made coffee.

Sometimes it takes a while but I eventually think of things.  It occurred to me this morning that I can cycle the charge on the house batteries while the coach is plugged in to an external source of AC power.  All I have to do to draw down the charge is turn off the charger section and let the DC loads run off the batteries.  Why this had never occurred to me before, and why it finally did this morning, I have no idea.  Perhaps it was because I finally had a problem in need of a solution.  I am not 100% confident about the charger section of the Magnum 4024 at this point and noticed yesterday that at Full Charge the indicated voltage was a bit higher than 25.2 VDC.  The weather forecast for today, however, is SE winds at 10-to-20 MPH with gusts to 30 and a high temperature of 87 degrees F; probably not the day to be playing with the house DC power system.

I had not gotten a reply to the text message I sent Al Hesselbart last night so I called him.  He picked up right away and reminded me that he does not send or receive text messages.  He was out fishing with a friend on Lake Panasoffkee and did not expect to be back in time for the 2 PM music jam.  He was open to having dinner and thought they would be back by 5 PM.  He agreed to call me when they were leaving the Lake and we would agree on a time to meet at the Mexican restaurant near Bushnell.

Al was the executive director of the RV&MH Museum and Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana for many years and then served as the museum’s historian for quite a while before retiring.  He full time RVs in a 1977 Newell that he moves back and forth between Breezy Oaks and Elkhart Campground in Elkhart, Indiana.

Linda moved the cats’ litter tray out of the shower and then went for a walk.  I took a shower, got dressed, and started processing more of the photos of Bill and Brenda Phelans’ RV Windshield Covers of Florida mobile workshop and the process they went through to measure, make, and install the external mesh window covers for the cockpit of our bus a few days ago.

The residents across the street and to the left had low decorative stone flower bed borders installed on Tuesday.  The five man crew was here all day so we had dust and noise from the saw, but they finished in one day and the result was very nice.  The husband, Pete, was out front this morning so I walked over to compliment him on how nice they looked and ended up chatting about the park.  He invited me to see their “villa’ (casita, coach house, etc.) so I went back to our rig and got Linda.  The wife, Eleanor, arrived a few minutes later in their golf cart.  We got a nice tour of their lovely villa and had a nice chat about the resort.

I was working on photos and Linda was reading when we decided that the wind was strong enough to warrant stowing the awnings.  In spite of the wind they were easy enough to roll up and it only took a few minutes.  We were concerned about heat gain through the uncovered windows on the south facing driver side of the coach so we pulled the opaque white MCD night shades down half way.  We opened all of the awning-style Windows wider than usual and turned on the roof vent exhaust fans.

Linda made teriyaki tofu and arugula pocket sandwiches for lunch, after which I continued to work on the photos.  I finally uploaded 40 image files to the Dropbox folder I created yesterday for this purpose and e-mailed Brenda to let her know they were there.

I also sent the folder link to Gary, at Bus Conversion Magazine, to see if he would be interested in an article about their converted EMS/ambulance that serves as a live-aboard mobile workshop for their business.  Bill and Brenda had converted a couple of buses before buying a Super C motorhome.  They also ran the Arcadia Bus Rally for the last five years, after assisting Jack and Paula Conrad for the first 11 years, so they know their way around conversions.  They are well known to the magazine and the bus conversion community and I think it would make a good article as Gary transitions BCM from being strictly bus conversions to encompass the broader concept of mobile dwelling conversions.

In spite of the 85 degree afternoon high temperature our rig stayed acceptably comfortable even with the awnings rolled up.  The wind was steady at 15 to 20 MPH out of the south with lots of puffy clouds and the relative humidity was 45%.  As a result we had good airflow through wide open windows and out the three roof vent exhaust fans, which I had running on speed 2 of 3.  The cockpit was still warm, but not like it was before we got the custom windshield and cockpit side window covers.

Juniper (our female cat) likes the heat and slept up on the co-pilot/navigator seat like she always has while Jasper slept on my swivel chair, then in his carrier on the floor, then on our bed, and finally tucked himself away on the tile floor on my side of the bed at the rear of the living area, which is the coolest place in the bus in the afternoon when we are parked facing west.  In the late afternoon we sat outside in the shade reading and it was incredibly pleasant.  Even though it is almost spring, this is why people go to Florida in the winter.

I called Al at 5:25 PM and they had just gotten back to the dock.  They needed to drive back to Breezy Oaks so Al could shower, change clothes, and get his car.  He said he would call when he was ready to head to the restaurant as we are approximately the same driving time away.  We agreed to meet at Coyote Roho, just west of Bushnell.

We decided to leave at 6 PM without waiting for Al to call so we could check out downtown Bushnell.  The restaurant was only a 9.6 mile drive, which our iPad Map app said would take 19 minutes, and Bushnell was a couple of miles short of that.  Driving north through Webster we found the Farmer’s and Flea Market site and farther up the road the site of the county fair.  The parking lot was full and the amusement rides lit up the area like it was Times Square.  There wasn’t much to Bushnell so we drove through to the Walmart parking lot to await Al’s call.  We were only there a short time and decided to go on to the restaurant and get a table and have a drink while we waited.  As we arrived at the restaurant Linda realized that I had two missed calls and a voice message from Al indicating that he was leaving at 6:15 PM.  I called him back and he answered as he was pulling into the parking lot.

We have only eaten at Coyote Rojo one other time, and that was back in December when we drove down from Williston to visit Al at Breezy Oaks and listen to the Thursday afternoon music jam.  Our recollection was that the food was good, so we were looking forward to dinner as well as conversation with Al.  Linda and I ordered the vegetarian fajitas and a vegetarian burrito and split them.  We were underwhelmed by our food but the server was attentive and we enjoyed spending time with Al.  We stayed at the restaurant talking long after we had finished our meals but all good things come to an end, or at least have to take a hiatus, and it been a long day for all of us.  Al is headed to the FMCA rally in Perry, Georgia all next week so we probably will not cross paths with him again for a while.

On the drive back to our resort the clouds had cleared off and the low humidity resulted in very bright stars.  This was the first time we had entered FGMCR at night and it was understated but grand with the street lights lining the curving entrance road and the main level of the clubhouse subtly illuminated.

Linda prepared fresh strawberries and blueberries for dessert and we watched our usual Thursday evening TV programs on CBS.  I put the finishing touches on today’s blog post and then went to bed.

2016/03/11 (F) FGMCR Happy Hour

I was up at 7:30 AM, fed the cats, made coffee, and cleaned the bean grinder.  Linda was up shortly thereafter and we had orange juice with our vitamins.  Breakfast was Publix Premium brand cinnamon raisin English Muffins, which are not really muffins at all.  Muffins are small cakes whereas English Muffins are bread.  We had them with vegan cream cheese and jam.

Linda went for a walk after breakfast.  I checked e-mail and corresponded with Brenda Phelan and Gary Hatt regarding a possible article for BCM on Bill and Brenda’s EMT/ambulance mobile workshop truck conversion.  I then settled in to upload blog posts for mid-November, starting with the one for the 13th, and worked on that task until time lunchtime.

For lunch Linda used whole wheat pita pockets to make sandwiches with vegan deli slices, vegan cheese, and lots of arugula.  We had red grapes and sweet-hot-garlic pickle slices to go with our sandwiches.  After lunch we went for a short walk.  Linda had a letter to mail and while we were at the mail room we took pictures of the cards listing sites for sale.

Back at our rig, Linda marked the sites on our resort map so we could check them out on one of our future walks.  I continued uploading blog posts and Linda decided to go swimming.  I was going to walk over at 3 PM to join her but I got a phone call from Bill Gerrie at 2:45 PM and was on the phone with him for about an hour.

Bill and Karen live in Limehouse, Ontario and are members of our FMCA GLCC chapter and the CCO group.  We talked about buses and rallies, of course, and a little bit about politics and food/health.  He and Karen are planning on attending the FMCA GLAMA rally (GLAMARAMA) in June along with Joe and Mia Temples and another couple who live near them.  Mike and Kathy will not be coming, however, as Mike is not well.

Linda called to see if I was coming to the pool but it was too late in the day by that point.  I finished uploading the blog post for November 17 and then got ready for the official resort happy hour.

Friday’s at 5 PM is FGMCR Happy Hour at the clubhouse; BYOB and a dish to share.  Linda uncorked and then stoppered our bottle of Moscato and packed it along with two of our polycarbonate wine glasses, a container of caramelized onion hummus, and our container of Snyder’s sourdough pretzel nibblers.  We put on our FMCA National Education Committee name badges and I grabbed my RVillage Ambassador hat and we started walking to the clubhouse.  We got as far as Bill and Joan’s rig just as they were backing out.  They offered us a lift and we accepted.

The happy hour turned out to be more of a “carry in” (pot luck) and the only thing we could eat, besides the stuff we brought, was fruit salad.  Even so, we had our fill.  We had not tried the caramelized onion hummus before.  It was very good and reminded me of the California dip we used to make with Lipton onion soup mix.  We sat with Bill and Joan and two other couples; Artie and Carol from Rochester Hills, Michigan, and Bob and Sandy from Valparaiso, Indiana.  After we were done eating one of the residents provided some comic entertainment.  Apparently entertainment is not usually part of the happy hour event.  We would not be regulars if it was.

Like the Wednesday morning “coffee” at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, the happy hour was not what I was expecting and did not give us a chance to mingle and meet people other than the folks at our table.  Happy hour was over by 6:15 PM and many of us returned to our coaches while some stuck around to play poker or hand-in-foot.

Back at our rig I checked the inside of the driver side tag axle wheel for signs of an oil leak by looking under the coach between the passenger side drive axle and tag axle tires with a flashlight.  The wheel appeared to me to be dry and there was no sign of oil on the concrete.

Since we did not have a lot to eat at happy hour Linda made a simple mixed fruit salad for us.  There wasn’t anything on TV that interested us, at least not on the stations we could receive at FGMCR.  We ended up watching a fundraiser presentation on PBS/Create about heart health that included food and fitness.  Most of the doctor’s advice about food was already known to us and some of it we disagreed with, based on what we have learned from Dr. Michael Greger at NutritionFacts.org, but we did find the five markers of metabolic syndrome interesting.  We were also reminded (confirmed) about the role of “white carbs” (simple sugars and highly processed carbohydrates like flours) in elevating triglycerides and cholesterol and contributing to the formation of plaque in the blood.  I was going to make popcorn, but after watching this program it did not feel right, somehow, and we went to bed popcornless.

 

2016/03/01–02 (T–W) Politics and Nutpods

2016/03/01 (T) Super Tuesday Nutpods

Today was officially our fifth month away from home this winter; not full months, of course, but the fifth month by name nonetheless.  I got up briefly at 6:45 AM to add food to the cats’ bowls and went back to bed.  With less pestering from the cats we slept in longer than usual and did not get up until just before 8 AM.

The shelf-stable Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that we ordered online.  We had high hopes for this product based on the reviews, but it disappointed us.

The shelf-stable Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that we ordered online. We had high hopes for this product based on the reviews, but it disappointed us.

I made coffee and tried the new Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer that arrived yesterday.  To our mutual disappointment, it separated almost immediately.  I was able to blend it back in by stirring, but it would just separate again if I let it sit.  We were both disappointed.  The reviews of this product sang its praises and made special note of it not separating like other non-dairy creamers.  We bought four containers of it for $3.50 each, so I will use them up, but we won’t be buying any more of them.  What we both find odd is that we do not recall having this problem at home where I have used unflavored soy-based creamers for a long time.  The only obvious difference between the bus and the house is that we have a dishwasher (machine) at home, but neither of us think this is related to the mugs not being clean on the bus as they are washed in soapy hot water.

Breakfast was granola with fresh blueberries and a small glass of juice to wash down our vitamins.  After breakfast Linda went to Mara’s motorhome to take care of the morning cat chores and I settled in to work at my computer.  I dealt with BCM- and SLAARC-related e-mails and investigated why the ES|ET Smart Security 8 software on my ASUS notebook computer was apparently not synchronizing with the Windows 10 update function.  I discovered in the process that there was a Smart Security 9 upgrade available so before requesting technical support I installed the upgrade.

While the upgrade was downloading and installing I called Ed and Betty Burns and arranged to meet them for linner at Sweet Tomatoes on University Parkway in Sarasota at 3 PM.  We needed to drive to Petco for cat food anyway and the restaurant is just across the street.  Since they now live in Florida, no longer work at the Middleton’s berry farm north of Detroit during the summer, and have given up RVing (at least for now), we probably will not see them again any time soon and wanted to visit with them one more time before we left south(west) Florida for the season.

When Linda got back I turned off the outside water and tested the fresh water pump.  It appeared to be working normally, so I left the outside water off and we resumed using the pump.

I proofread yet another draft of the April issue of Bus Conversion Magazine and marked up a few final corrections to my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion.  Soon enough it was 1 PM and time to leave.

We stopped at the Shell station on FL-70 in Lakewood Ranch and filled up the tank.  Regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) was $1.79 per gallon.  A week ago I bought fuel at this same station for $1.56 per gallon.  We arrived at the Petco, in the massive University Town Center shopping district, at 2:20 PM.  They were out of the exact food we needed (Royal Canin Sensitive Digest Thin Slices) but had the loaf form of the same food so we bought all nine cans of that.  That will be enough to get us past Mara and Michael’s return from the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise.

We were at Sweet Tomatoes by 2:50 PM and had just started to go for a walk when Ed and Betty drove by, so we turned around and met them at the front door.  We were at the restaurant for almost two hours and had a good meal and a nice chat.  We talked about our upcoming travel plans and Ed and Betty, who have taken care of some important medical issues, indicated that they are thinking about getting a Class B or B+ motorhome or possibly a pull-behind RV.  There is an outside possibility that we might cross paths with them in the Canadian Maritime provinces over the summer.  Towards the end of our meal Ed and Janet Roelle showed up with Nathan.  We chatted briefly with them, said “fair well for now” to everyone, and headed back to Arcadia.

We stopped at the Publix supermarket on FL-70 in Lakewood Ranch for a few grocery items we cannot get in Arcadia.  (It should be noted, however, that Publix is building a supermarket in Arcadia.)  We got back to our coach just before 6 PM and spent a few minutes with our cats, both of whom were very glad to see us and wanted our attention.  At 6:20 Linda walked down to take care of Mara’s cats and I walked down about 30 minutes later.  Linda had the TV on and “Super Tuesday,” with 11 states holding presidential primary elections, dominated the news cycle.  We walked back to our rig at 7:45 PM under dark, clear skies and bright stars.

We watched NCIS and NCISNOLA but Limitless was preempted by Super Tuesday election coverage so we found a documentary on PBS about the Statue of Liberty and watched that.  Linda fell asleep before it was over but it was followed by an equally interesting documentary on the public health hospital on Ellis Island that operated for nearly 30 years in the early 20th Century.

2016/03/02 (W) Windshield Caulk

Our day started, as it usually does, with coffee, breakfast, and iPads.  While Linda tended to Mara’s cats I made a few changes to the ES|ET Smart Security 9 settings on my computer.  I then selected and processed three possible post card photos from last week and e-mailed them to Linda’s iPad.

When Linda got back from tending to Mara’s cats and motorhome she worked on creating this week’s photo post card for Madeline and uploaded it to the PhotoCardApp service in San Diego, California.  She then got to work on tax returns.  I finalized the bonus photo captions for the BCM featured bus article on Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion, uploaded everything to my Dropbox, and e-mailed the magazine staff to let them know it was there.

The motorhome that was next to us on the passenger side for most of the winter pulled out on Sunday.  On Monday the resort put another rig in that site.  It stayed for two nights and pulled out this morning.  We never even met the people.  Early this afternoon the resort brought in another rig, a 42 foot 5th-wheel being pulled by a suitably large pickup truck.  Phil, from the resort office, was the escort and parking attendant.  I popped out to see if I should move my car and Phil said it would help, so I backed deeper into our site and well out of the way.  It took some doing but Phil managed to get the rig backed into the site.

As long as I was outside I had several chores to take care of before we pull out of here on Monday and today seemed like a good day to take care of a couple of them.  I found some silicon spray lubricant and managed to pull the emergency breakaway key out of the lock on the front bumper of the car just far enough to spray some in.  I let it sit a minute and then wrapped what was left of the tethered cable around my hands and pulled hard enough to finally get it to come out.  With the key out I sprayed the inside of the lock and on the key and then inserted and removed the key several times.  I sprayed a bit more, put the key back in, and let it sit.

Our new neighbor was outside setting up their rig so we got to meet him.  His name was also Phil and his wife’s name was Marylou.  Phil was retired from the U. S. Army and they recently became full-time RVers.  We chatted briefly and met their two adorable Dachshunds.  We let them get back to the task of setting up camp and moved on to my second chore, which required Linda’s assistance.

The other day I pulled the caulking out from between the new passenger side lower windshield and the new windshield gasket.  I let it sit a couple days to see if the gasket would reform to the glass as a result of warm temperatures and hot sunshine.  It didn’t, so I got the tube of black caulk I found the other day and got it ready to use.  I used the small 3-step stool to get high enough to work and Linda prepared several wet paper shop towels.  I applied the caulk, which is designed for window trimming and should work with glass, to the gap between the windshield and the gasket.  Linda held the windshield wiper out of the way while I worked and handed me the wet paper towels as needed.  I did not do a very good job but hopefully it was good enough to keep the windshield from leaking water and prevent wind noise.  The caulk was water cleanup, so that made it easy to take care of putting everything away.

By 4 PM the outside air temperature was about 80 degrees F with a nice breeze, scattered clouds, and a hot sun.  That made for very pleasant conditions outside in the shade, but inside it was 85 in spite of having the windows open and the exhaust fans running.  Linda went outside to read and I was having a problem getting my laptop to connect to the NAS so I shut off my computer and the NAS and went outside to join her.

As we move towards spring we have the sun on our windshields for more of the day and are now getting the late afternoon sun on the passenger side of our motorcoach.  Linda commented that if we ever buy an RV lot somewhere she wants it oriented and/or landscaped so the passenger side of the coach is always in shade.  Duly noted and agreed.

I worked on this blog post for a while using the new MobiSystems OfficeSuites app.  Now that I have figured out how to use it with Dropbox, and have learned how to create folders and move files, I am satisfied with how it works and might go ahead and spend the $19.99 for the full-featured “Premium” version.  Not that I am using most of the features of the free version, but why limit myself.

We skipped lunch today and by 4:30 PM Linda was hungry so she went inside to prepare our dinner.  I played a few games on my iPad and when the sun dropped below our patio awning and obscured my screen I went inside.  Linda had just set our salads on the table so it was good timing.  She made large salads with a kale and spinach base and lots of yummy toppings including sliced fresh apples.  She put our monthly dose of four Brazil Nuts on the side and served still water with half of a Meyer lemon squeezed into each glass.  I eat faster than Linda does so I packed up our computers and iPads and loaded them in the car while she finished her dinner.

When Linda was done eating we grabbed our smartphones and drove over to the activity building.  Dominoes and pinochle are scheduled on Wednesdays at 6:30 PM in the main room, but the library was not scheduled for use so we set up our technology in there.  We got both computers, both iPads, and both smartphones connected to the resort Wi-Fi system and then connected through to the Internet.  I had ~300 MB of app updates for my iPad and Linda had ~425 MB of app updates for hers.  I had six app updates on my phone and Linda had three.  Those tend to be smaller than the iPad updates but probably totaled another 200 MB combined.  We both had critical updates for Windows 10 and have no idea how many MB they were since Windows 10 does not think that is information the end user needs to know.  People using limited data plans, however, probably differ with Microsoft on this point.

Folks started showing up for the games at 6 PM and they were underway by 6:30.  Linda’s devices were all up-to-date by then so she walked over to Mara’s motorhome for her evening cat chores.  I finished up with my updates by 6:45, packed up our tech toys (tools), and drove back to our rig.

Wednesday night is PBS nature and science night for us and the theme this evening was space exploration.  But first we had to get tuned in to the results of yesterday’s Super Tuesday primary elections.  After three hours of space exploration documentaries Linda went to bed while I watched Charlie Rose.  He had four guests, two from each end of the political spectrum, and they provided their analysis of the current presidential candidate race, to the extent that anyone understands what is going on.  Reassured that the world really is in chaos, and that the American electorate has crossed the boundary into collective insanity, I went to sleep.

 

2016/02/25-29 (R – M) Sand Castle Stallions Port

2016/02/25 (R) Siesta Key

We were up at 6:30 AM this morning and did not have coffee or breakfast.  We picked up Mara and Michael at 7 AM and headed west on FL-70 towards Bradenton.  Our destination was an endodontic office in Lakewood Ranch were Mara had an 8 AM appointment for a root canal procedure.  As we were coming into town Michael spotted a Dunkin Donuts.  Location duly noted.  I pulled up to the office building at 7:55 and we all went in.

The endodontist said the procedure would take about an hour.  Michael stayed to wait for Mara while Linda and I drove back to the DD for coffee and something to eat.  The DD was in a small shopping plaza next to a Shell station so I topped off the car’s fuel tank before we topped off ours’.  I bought regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) for $1.56 per gallon.  We were getting ready to leave DD when Mara texted Linda that she would be longer than originally thought.  The tooth needed a filling and the dental practice next door just had a cancellation and could take her right away.  That was fortunate for Mara as she and Michael are leaving on Saturday for a week long cruise.  She also wasn’t sure she could get in to see her dentist before July, which was much too long of a time to rely on the temporary filling the endodontist had put in place.

With Mara’s dental needs taken care of we headed west on FL-70 to I-75 south to Exit 207 and then west to US-41.  A short jog to the right (north) and back to the left and we were on Siesta Key Drive headed west to the island of Siesta Key.  We drove through the town, which was very quaint (upscale trendy, actually) and found a place to park with public access to the beach.  The Siesta Key beach is very fine white sands, reputed to be the finest and whitest of any beach in Florida.  We walked quite a ways south from our entry point past the main public entrance and numerous lifeguard stands, all of which were staffed.  The wind was strong and the waves were high and I took a few photos.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach.  Siesta Key, FL.

A group of Royal Terns face into the wind on Siesta Key Beach. Siesta Key, FL.

When we got back to the car we exited the island via the southern bridge and drove down US-41 to Venice.  We found a parking spot, which is not easy in Venice, and walked around the historic downtown area, which is now a mix of quaint and upscale shopping and lots of places to eat.  It is a very attractive area but there were a lot of people there.

We were just window shopping when we walked past the TableTop store.  As the name suggests, they sell a wide variety of products used to set a dining table.  We looked around to see if they had plastic wine glasses but did not see any.  We were just about to leave when we spotted one.  It was smaller than we wanted so we asked if they had others.  They did, we just did not see them!  They were not plastic, however, but were made of polycarbonate.  That’s the same material used for contact lens blanks and motorcycle visors.  It felt heavy duty and had a slight bluish cast.  The sales associate assured us that they could be cleaned in a dishwasher and would not discolor, craze, or crack, and will not break even if dropped on concrete (although we do not intend to test that claim).  We bought four of them at $15 each.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

Mara and Linda play in the fountain in Venice, FL.

When we had seen enough of Venice we returned to the car and drove a short distance to Cafe Evergreen in Nokomis for linner.  I had the veggie (vegan) burger and Linda had the vegan beet Rueben.  Mara had the stir-fry noodle dish, which both of us have had before, and Michael had the Chana Masala.  Our waiter, by his own admission, was having an off day but the food was good and we took our time enjoying it.

When we were done with our meal we were also done exploring for the day and I drove us back to Arcadia.  On the drive back we discussed plans for tomorrow, which included Solomon’s Castle in the late morning, Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in the mid-afternoon, some before and after errands, and a picnic lunch.  Back at the RV Resort we dropped Michael and Mara at her RV and then returned to ours.  We watched our Thursday night CBS TV programs and had some popcorn later in the evening.  We headed to bed at 11 PM, watched a few minutes of Charlie Rose, and then went to sleep.

2016/02/26 (F) Castle Stallions

Our two main attractions today were Solomon’s Castle, near Ono, Florida and Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions near Myakka City, Florida.  Both locations were within 25 miles of Arcadia and each other, so we did not have to endure an excessive amount of car travel.

We picked up Mara and Michael at 10:15 AM, stopped at the local Wells Fargo bank branch, and then headed west out of town.  At the edge of town we headed north on FL-661 towards Ono.  We turned onto CR-665 and five miles later turned off onto Salomon Road to the parking lot of Solomon’s Castle.  We had the address in the GPS, but there were occasional old hand-painted signs confirming the route.  We arrived just before 11 AM, when the “castle” opens for tours, but the parking lot was already crowded.  We bought our tickets for the 11:30 tour and then strolled around the part of the grounds between the parking lot and the castle while we waited.  Horse Creek runs through the property, much of which was wet.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Michael and Mara by the horse statute near the entrance to Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

Solomon’s Castle was built by, and is still the home of, Henry Solomon and his wife.  Henry, who is about to turn 81, is an artist who has been creating art objects for 76 years.  Much of the main floor of the castle is an art museum, although the walking tour includes the living room and kitchen.  Other living spaces are on the second floor and were not part of the tour.  There is also a guest bedroom available to rent for $125 per night but I do not recall if an overnight stay included breakfast.  There is, however, a scale “replica” of the Santa Maria that houses part of the onsite cafe and is run by Solomon’s daughter and her husband, who live in a separate house on the property.

Solomon’s Castle and his art are quirky.  Although we did not get to meet him, we came away with an image of his sense of humor, and caught a glimpse of him in his workshop while we were walking the grounds after the tour.  Solomon works in a variety of materials but mostly metal and wood, and mostly with discarded scrap materials including food cans, beer cans, and parts/pieces of automobiles.  I took quite a few photos while we were there.  I don’t know what our son’s professional opinion of Solomon’s corpus would be, but some of his pieces were interesting and we had to respect the sheer quantity of work he has produced.  He seemed to have a particular interest in Picasso, copying several of the master’s works in wood montage.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle.  Ono, FL.

Mara, Michael, and Linda on the grounds of Solomon’s Castle. Ono, FL.

From the castle we continued north on CR-665 up to FL-64, the Florida Cracker Trail, and then west about five miles to Wauchula Road where we headed south to Myakka City.  At FL-70 in Myakka City we headed east about 1/2 mile and pulled in to a local park on the north side of the road that affronted the west bank of the Myakka River.  The picnic tables were all bolted to the concrete slabs that served as the floors of the open-sided shelters so we ate our lunch in the shade.  The air temperature was in the mid-60’s, and there was a breeze, so we ate with our jackets on.

After lunch we headed west on FL-70 to the other side of Myakka City were we turned south on Singletary Road.  About seven miles down we found the entrance to the Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School complex.  Hermann’s is the home of a group of Lipizzaner horses that tour North America.  The original horses were part of the 500 Austrian Royal Lipizzaner horses rescued by General George Patton at the end of World War II.  Gabby Hermann is the matriarch of the current operation and the original horses were brought to the USA by her father.  The Lipizzaner horse was first bred in Austria in 1565 from Arabian and Andalusian stock.  Six lines were produced and new Arabian and Andalusian stock have been included in the breeding since that time to avoid the negative effects of inbreeding.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training.  Myakka City, FL.

Gabby Herman exercises one of the Royal Lipizzaner Stallions in training. Myakka City, FL.

Hermann’s has open rehearsals (performances) every Thursday and Friday at 3 PM and Saturday at 10 AM when they are not touring, weather permitting.  These are not “dress rehearsals” as the houses and riders are not fully costumed the way they would be for a show while on tour.  They do, however, put the horses through all of their maneuvers.  The rehearsals take place in an open air arena connected to the nearby stables with a pair of gated fences.  There are bleachers on the two long sides of the arena and visitors also bring lawn chairs and set them up on three sides of the arena.  We arrived around 2:15 PM and there were already people there.  Admission was a $5 “donation” per person, but it was not optional.  It was well worth the price, however, and we made an extra contribution at the end of the show.

We secured good seats in the last row of the one of the bleachers at the top of the stairs with our backs to the sun.  That allowed us an unobstructed view for photography with light from a good direction.  It was a good thing we got there early.  Six fully-loaded tour buses showed up after we got there along with lots of passenger cars.  The bleachers were packed and the lawn chairs were at least two deep around the fence.  After the show we walked over to see the 17 day old colt and walk through the stables.  I took photos and also snapped a few shots of the tour buses after chatting with the driver of a 2016 Prevost H3-45 with a beautiful deep purple paint scheme.  I would sure like to have one of those to convert.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School.  Myakka City, FL.

Five stallions work in formation at Hermann’s Royal Lipizzaner Stallions and Spanish American Riding School. Myakka City, FL.

When we were done at Hermann’s we drove back to Arcadia and stopped at Walgreens before returning to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort.  We spent a little time at Mara’s motorhome so she could walk Linda through the various cat and RV chores that needed to be taken care off during the next week.  With that done we stopped at the mail room.  We had a slip in our mail slot that there was a package for us in the office but it was after 5 PM and the office was closed.  We figured it was the shipment of Nutpods vegan coffee creamer but we would not be able to pick it up until Monday as we would not be around during office hours on Saturday and the office is closed on Sundays.

For dinner Linda made lentil potato burritos using various leftover ingredients that we wanted/needed to use up.  I opened the bottle of Barefoot Moscato wine, using the cork puller that Mara gave us the other night, and we had some for dessert.  We were both tired so we watched some TV, including the first of three episodes of a new Masterpiece Mystery series named Silk about barristers in England.  We did not watch the second episode as we had to be up early in the morning and it was going to end too late.

2016/02/27 (S) Port Miami

We were up at 6:30 AM and left at 7 AM for Dunkin Donuts where we got something to eat and a couple of large half-caffe coffees.  As planned, we were back at Mara’s motorhome at 7:30 AM.  By 7:45 we had Michael, Mara, and their luggage onboard and were on our way to the cruise ship terminals at the Port of Miami some three plus hours distant.

The GPS wanted us to go south on FL-31 but we had already decided we would take FL-70 east to US-27 and then take that south/southeast as far as I-75.  We stopped at a Marathon station in South Bay to use the restrooms and let Mara and Michael get some coffee.  We headed east on I-75 to its end point at MM 0 and then followed whatever roads the GPS told us to use to get to Port Miami.  When we were almost to the Port we deviated from the GPS and took the tunnel under the water to get to the cruise ship terminals rather than exit the highway and use the bridge.  There was some temporary confusion, and minor tension, surrounding this but soon enough we ended up at Terminal F where the MSC Divina was docked.

Traffic was heavy and chaotic, but we found a spot at the curb and got them unloaded.  A quick handshake and a hug and we were on our way.  I never cease to be appalled at the incredibly pour traffic engineering we encounter at major transportation terminals.  We did get a stunning view of the skyscrapers that dominate the downtown Miami skyline, but after a bit of driving around we managed to escape the island via the bridge and I was glad to be clear of the area.

Linda had researched vegan friendly eateries last night and selected one called The Kitchen.  It was near Miami International Airport, not too far from Port Miami, and basically in the direction we needed to travel to return to Arcadia.  She put the address in the GPS and we enjoyed a slow, late Saturday morning, drive through downtown Miami.  We arrived around 11:30 and there were only a couple of other diners there.  As is often the case, it was a slightly funky little place, but it had an entirely vegan menu with lots of interesting options.

The Kitchen is, in fact, the prep facility for a chain of local eateries, and plenty of other customers showed up while we were there.  We had the tacos, which included plantains, and the nachos.  The tacos were good, especially the plantains, but the nachos were outstanding.  Both were made with vegan chorizo sausage.  The nachos had a base of blue corn chips with beans, tomatoes, salsa, and cashew cream.  It was also a big serving.  For dessert we each had a coconut date ball and a gobi berry chocolate brownie.  Yum.  The Kitchen was a bit pricey but most of the ingredients were organic and the food was fresh and very tasty so we felt it was good value for the money.

We left at 12:30 PM and I turned the wrong way leaving the parking lot.  It turned out we were on US-27 headed north so we stayed with that choice.  The GPS wanted to put us on the Interstate/Tollroads but we knew that eventually it would put us back on US-27.  There was a lot of traffic and frequent traffic signals, but we eventually got clear of the developed urban area.  Not too far out we stopped at a roadside park with an airboat operation and switched drivers.  Linda told me later that I napped for about an hour but my experience of the situation was that I nodded off and woke up repeatedly because of neck discomfort.

We got back to our RV resort around 3:45 PM and stopped at the mail room on the way in where I retrieved a box of magazines from BCM.  The 3 PM Mardi Gras parade had just ended but some of the decorated golf carts and masked participants were still hanging around the activity building.  I made a mental note that the Mardi Gras dinner started at 7:30 PM and we returned to our rig.

We turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and got our local network online.  I opened the box of magazines to see what was inside and e-mailed Gary to let him know what I received.  Linda needed to attend to Mara’s cats, Maui and Sabra, and we both had several updates pending on our iPads and smartphones.  We packed up the iPads and walked to the activity building where I set up our technology in the library while Linda went on to Mara’s Bounder to tend to her cats.

I got both iPads and both smartphones connected to the Internet via the resort Wi-Fi system, which can only be picked up at/near the activity building (which includes the office, lanai, library, dining room/kitchen, card room, and laundry room).  The best reception is outside in front of the building, as the antenna is on the peak of the roof ridge at the front gable, but the reception in the lanai and library is very usable.  There was one other person there using the Wi-Fi but she left shortly after I arrived.

The updates for our iPads took 500 MB and the smartphone updates took at least another 250 MB, so it was at least a 0.75 GB update session.  Our 12 GB monthly Verizon data plan works out to about 0.4 GB per day, on average, so we are trying to do our updates using the park Wi-Fi and save our data plan for web searches, document/photo uploads/downloads, and other work we want and/or need to do from our motorcoach.

While I was updating our devices Linda got a text message from Mara and I was able to watch the latest OK Go video and play a few games.  Kate sent me the link a week ago and I was waiting for a chance to use the resort Wi-Fi when there were few, if any, other users.  I also downloaded the latest issue of The Gypsy Journal digital edition.

When I was done I packed up and walked over to Mara’s rig.  Linda exchanged text messages with Mara.  She and Michael are on the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise for the first time.  They had finished the opening session with Jessica Porter and Neal Barnhard, M.D. and enjoyed it very much.  They had just sat down to dinner and we’re excited about that too.  We enjoyed their enthusiasm and recalled what it was like for us the first time we went on this cruise.  Linda packed up a few things to bring back to our coach.  Mara made Broccoli salad last night and there was a lot left over that she wanted us to eat.

It cooled off quickly after the sun set and the overnight low was forecast to be 42 degrees F.  We closed up the coach and then had some of Mara’s broccoli salad along with vegan Italian “sausage” for dinner.  We finished the Barefoot Moscato wine, had a few grapes for dessert, and settled in to watch some TV programs on the local PBS channels before going to bed.  We had spent 7 hours driving/riding in the car today and we were tired.

2016/02/28 (N) Cat Care

It was cool in the coach this morning and I stayed in bed, under the covers, with the electric heating pad on, until after 7:30 AM.  The cats were persistent, however, and I finally got up and took care of their needs.  I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and the zone control thermostats for the bathroom and the kitchen/living area and the electric toe-kick heater for the front of the bus.  Linda got up at 8 AM as I was making coffee.

We had granola for breakfast, after which Linda packed up her laptop computer and gathered up papers related to work she needed to do.  She took the car and drove to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats and then work there.  She did not need to be online and figured the cats would appreciate the company, or at least get more accepting her presence and attention if she spent some quiet, extended time there.  I stayed at our rig to catch up on draft blog posts and attend to our cats.

Last week I downloaded the free version of an app called “OfficeSuite (Free) Mobile + PDF” and have been using it to write the drafts of my recent blog posts.  It works at least as well as the native iPad Notes app, better in my opinion (so far), and creates a native docx format Word document.  It also works with various cloud services.  Hypothetically that should save me the steps of e-mailing it to myself, selecting/copying the text from the e-mail, pasting it into a blank Word doc, and then cleaning up all of the junk caused by the Note app, which is considerable (numerous calendar hyperlinks).  I say hypothetically because I have not yet set up or tested the cloud sync feature.  That was on my “to do” list for today.

Around 11:30 AM it was getting warm in the coach under mostly sunny skies.  I opened windows and roof vents and then put out all of the awnings. I continued working on my blog posts from the last four days and was finally ready to upload one of them via a cloud service.  We have a Dropbox account but we also have OneDrive accounts as part of the Windows 10 OS on our notebook computers.  I don’t normally use OneDrive but I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it.

I set up the credentials to allow the app to connect to the OneDrive account attached to my OS login.  I then tried to move or copy the Word docx file for Wednesday’s blog post from “current files” to the OneDrive under Network locations but the OfficeSuites app would not give me the OneDrive account as an option.  I checked the Help screens for information to assist me but could not find anything pertaining to this specific problem.  The app has Pro and Premium upgrades available ($ and $$) but the feature chart indicated that interfacing to all five of the different cloud services was included in the Free version.  Rather than waste time on this I called David Aungier to let him know there was an updated version of his featured bus article in a folder in my Dropbox and then kept working on draft blog posts.

At 1 PM I was getting ready to walk over to Mara’s rig to get the shower supplies from Linda when she returned in the car.  We have been able to avoid removing the cats’ litter box from our shower by using the showers at the building by the swimming pool.  That also keeps the shower water out of our grey water tank, allowing us to go more days between dumps.  I got my towel and the soap from Linda and walked over to the shower house.

When I got back from my shower I trimmed my beard and shaved.  It had probably been at least a month since my last beard trim and I was starting to look a bit scruffy.  All cleaned up and feeling refreshed I dealt with a couple of e-mails and then returned to the issue of getting the OfficeSuites app to sync with one of my cloud services.  It appeared that Dropbox might be the best choice so I established the connection to that account.  Voilà!  I was finally able to copy a local Word file to the folder I had previously set up in my Dropbox for blog post documents.

I proceeded to finish each post in turn and copied it to the Dropbox folder which immediately uploaded it to the cloud server.  I checked my ASUS notebook computer to make sure the document had made it to the local hard drive.  It had, which meant I could move it to where I keep the draft posts and start editing it directly.  This was a big deal for me as I expect it to streamline the blogging process.

As I was working on all of this I realized that I had told Gary at BCM that I would review and comment on an article he had received from Lloyd DeGerald and would try to get it back to him by Sunday evening.  Lloyd is a highly experienced, factory-trained, Webasto / Aqua-Hot service and repair technician and has worked on our Aqua-Hot in the past.  His article was basically a terse service procedure consisting of a numbered list of steps.  There were some things that I was not clear about so I added comments and highlighted them in yellow.  I got the document e-mailed back to Gary, with answers to several questions he had asked, just as Linda was putting dinner on the table.

Dinner was an improvised dish of red beans and rice with onions, garlic, tomatoes, turmeric, and kale.  I added a little extra Tabasco hot sauce to mine and it was a very good dish.  After dinner Linda did the dishes and then we walked over to Mara’s motorhome, by way of the garbage trailer, to tend to the evening cat and rig chores.  Maui stayed out long enough to get up on the hassock and show some interest in me.  I let her smell my hand but when I tried to pet her head she swatted at me.  Too much, too soon.  She played with a cat toy that Linda shook around, ate her dinner, and disappeared into the bedroom.  Sabra stayed out the whole time we were there, ate her dinner, and chased feathers that Linda moved around.

We walked back to our rig before 8 PM and watched a special about the Manners of Downton Abby on PBS.  The overnight low was forecast at 54 degrees F so we closed the roof vents but did not close the coach windows all the way before turning in for the night.

2016/02/29 (M) Bonus Day

Last night was the Academy Awards but we did not watch the show.  We had not seen any of the films and were more interested in a pair of specials on the Manners of Downton Abby about the role of the show’s historical consultant whose job it has been to make sure all of the actors were as authentic as possible in their speech and mannerisms.

We got up this morning between 7:30 and 8 AM, which seems to have become our norm of late unless we have an outing planned that requires an early departure.  We had our usual coffee followed by granola with blueberries for breakfast.  We doodled on our iPads for a bit and I finished my blog post for yesterday and uploaded it to our Dropbox.  Linda noted that today was February 29th.  In a month that is usually two to three days shorter than all the others it was like having a bonus day.  I also enjoy the relative rarity of the event.

At 9:30 AM Linda packed up her computer and papers and walked over to Mara’s motorhome to tend to the cats.  She planned to stay and work a while and was expecting a call from Dave at the bakery around 10 AM.  I finished my coffee, got dressed, and settled in to work at my computer.

When Linda returned we walked to Walmart for a few grocery items before it got too warm outside.  When we got back and had the groceries put away, we reconfigured the back of the car.  After Mara’s arrival, but prior Michael’s arrival, we had reconfigured the back of the car.  We had removed one of the rear seats and put the other rear seat down so Mara could go places with us.  Most of the stuff went back in the car but in order to store the removed seat in the front bay of the bus and make room for some of the stuff from the car we had moved the air compressor and two of the four chassis stands to the passenger side engine bay.

Just prior to Michael’s arrival we reconfigured the back of the car again as we now needed four seats.  To keep our stuff out of sight and protect it from the weather we bought a small tent, set it up behind the bus, and put everything in it.

When Mara and Michael return from the Holistic Holiday at Sea Cruise on Saturday Michael is going to rent a car to and get them back to Arcadia from Miami.  He will be sticking around for another four weeks and they will need a car for most of that time as we are leaving Big Tree Carefree RV Resort a week from today.  So today we put both rear seats back up, emptied out the storage tent, reloaded the car, and repacked the front bay of the bus.

As long as we were working outside I stripped out the bad silicone caulk between the new passenger side lower windshield and the gasket.  I found a different product in one of our parts and supplies tubs and got it out.  I did not apply it, however, as I wanted to let the rubber gasket relax and hopefully reform to the glass.  In retrospect, it is painfully obvious that the Safelite installers did not know what they were doing.

It was a sunny day and by early afternoon the air temperature was 80 degrees F, so we put on our swimming suits and walked over to the pool.  We stopped at the office to retrieve our package of Nutpods non-dairy coffee creamer and put it in the mail room until later.  After a nice soak and vitamin D treatment we showered, changed into dry clothes, and walked back to the mail room to retrieve our Nutpods package and other mail.  Being the last day of the month our electric bill was there along with an invitation to the Michigan reunion lunch scheduled for July 14 in Concord, Michigan.  The Resort does have a strong sense of community, and people take that back to their home states/provinces when the leave.

I had a text message from Kerry Fear requesting payment for snowplowing services for February.  Linda wrote a check and got it ready to mail.

For dinner Linda made stuffed poblano peppers and pan-grilled them.  (We do not travel with an outdoor grill, either propane or charcoal.)  The stuffing was rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan sour cream, cumin seeds, and Daiya vegan cheddar cheese.  So good.  We had some Barefoot Riesling wine after dinner and fresh mixed fruit salad (bananas, strawberries, and blueberries) for dessert.  I really like the way we eat.

After dinner we watched our usual PBS news programs followed by our usual CBS entertainment shows.  I stayed up to watch Charlie Rose’s interview with Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc.  I was getting ready for bed and turned on the fresh water pump.  It normally runs briefly to build up pressure and then shuts off.  This time it just kept running.  That meant one of two things: either there was an opening in the system (faucet or leak), or the demand pressure sensor was not working.  I shut it off, put my sweats and Crocs back on, grabbed a flashlight, and went outside to investigate.

It was almost midnight but there was plenty of light from the resort street lamps.  I checked both sides of the utility bay and did not see any sign of a leak other than the small drip from the fill valve packing nut.  I turned on the shore water supply and opened the valves to allow it to flow through the softener to the coach.  Once the lines and softener were filled and pressurized I did not hear any further water flow, so I was somewhat confident that we did not have a leak in the system.  I left the outside water turned on so we could flush the toilet and run water to wash our hands.

Back inside I wrote a sticky note not to turn on the water pump and stuck it on the toilet seat.  Linda woke up right after I finally got to bed so I was able to tell her in person, but the note was still a good reminder.  I watched Tavis Smiley’s interview with Tom Waters of Pink Floyd and then went to sleep. February 2016 had been a very busy, but very satisfying month for us.

 

2016/02/22-24 (M–W) 1 SP, 2 S-A-H

2016/02/22 (M) Myakka River State Park

Our destination today was Myakka River State Park (MRSP).  We agreed yesterday to pick up Mara and Michael at 10 AM.  That allowed us to sleep until 8 AM, have coffee and breakfast at our rig, and take showers before leaving for the day.

MRSP is only 25 miles from Arcadia so we did not stop for fuel or coffee.  We stopped at the visitor center near the main entrance to study the maps and displays before heading deeper into the park.  As on previous visits, our first stop was the bridge over the stretch of the Myakka River that runs south from Upper Myakka Lake to Lower Myakka Lake.  We hiked south along the east edge of the river for quite some distance.  Unlike previous visits we did not see the quantity or diversity of wildlife that we expected.  Absent from our visit today were Wood Storks and Roseate Spoonbills.  We saw alligators, but only one somewhat up close.

We stopped at the Forest Canopy towers and suspension bridge which is one of the special treats of this park.  After that stop we drove to the vendor area on the southeast shore of the Upper Lake to have our picnic lunch.  The parking lot was full but our timing was lucky and we waited as someone backed out and then took that spot.  This area has a boat launch, restaurant, pontoon boat tour, wheeled vehicle train, gift shop, and restrooms.  After lunch we walked out to the weir across the outflow of the Upper Lake, which maintains it at a slightly higher level.  We saw a few more alligators and birds there.

We drove to the end of the road at the north gate and checked out the other picnic area that someone at lunch told us was there.  On the way back we stopped at the Birdwalk, a boardwalk that goes out through a marsh to a point near the eastern edge of the Upper Lake.  We saw a few more alligators from a distance and got a close up view of a couple of birds.

By the time we were done at the Birdwalk it was approaching 4 PM.  We drove slowly back to the Visitor Center to use the restrooms and then exited the park and headed back to Arcadia.  On the way back Linda and Mara decided that, in spite of a nice weather forecast, we would stick around the RV Resort tomorrow and have dinner together.  Not only will that give them time to plan/prepare the meal, it will give us time to do laundry and relax at the swimming pool.  It will also allow me to finish proofreading and correcting articles for BCM.  The forecast for Wednesday has an 80% chance of rain so that was already planned as a stay-at-home day.    My hope is that I will be able to upload the rest of my blog posts for October 2015.  I do not like being this far behind.

For dinner Linda made a dish with vegan Italian sausage on a bed of angel hair pasta with onion, garlic, and broccoli sautéed in EVOO.  Yum, yum.  After dinner I off-loaded the photos I took today.  We then watched the Nightly Business Report and NewsHour on PBS followed by the X-Files and Lucifer on FOX, NCIS Los Angeles on CBS, a few minutes of news and weather, and then Charlie Rose’s interview with Bill Gates on PBS.

So many shades of green.  A view to the south from the observation platform atop the north tower of the Forest Canopy Skywalk.  Myakka River SP, FL.

So many shades of green. A view to the south from the observation platform atop the north tower of the Forest Canopy Skywalk. Myakka River SP, FL.

2016/02/23 (T) Green Taco Wraps

It rained briefly last evening and more rain was forecast starting later this afternoon and extending through-tomorrow.  Today and-tomorrow were planned as stay-at-home (S-A-H) days so we got up just before 8-AM and had coffee, juice, and granola with bananas.  My plan was to take care of our fresh- and waste-water tanks and do the laundry before settling in to work on computer-based tasks.  Linda received a package yesterday of year-end accounting documents from the bakery and planned to work on those today.

The skies had clouded up late yesterday and gotten darker and thicker by sunset.  We had dark clouds to our west this morning and had just finished breakfast (granola, bananas, fruit juice) when it started to rain lightly.  I had no sooner closed the bathroom vent/fan when the rain came down hard.  I closed down the awning style windows until they were only open about an inch at the bottom.  We planned to roll up the patio awning before the rain came today but now had to wait for it to dry off, assuming the rains let up and the sun came out for a while.

We dropped below 1/3rd tank of fresh water yesterday.  When the rain stopped I went out to check the level visually.  It was barely below the 1/3rd sensor so I decided to forego dumping and filling for a couple of more days.  I might even run off the city water for a day or so to push the whole dump/fill/recharge routine off until the weekend.

I moved my laptop computer to the dining table so Linda could on work at hers on the desk.  The accounting work she had to do for the bakery required space to spread out the paperwork she got from Dave (the controller) yesterday.  I decided to just keep editing blog posts from November 2015 in preparation for eventually uploading them.

At 12:45 PM I started sorting the soiled clothes and linens.  Linda quite working on the accounting and made sandwiches for our lunch.  She made a grocery list and then walked to the supermarket.  At 1:30 I loaded the laundry and my iPad into the car and drove over to the laundry room.  By 1:45 I had four washing machines in operation.

I connected my iPad to the Resort’s public Wi-Fi signal at the activity building and connected through to the Internet, which always takes some doing.  The problem is that the various browsers load cached versions of the tabs that are open and I have to go to a new webpage in other to trigger the filter and connect to the Internet.  Until I have done that successfully I cannot check e-mail or update apps.

By 2:25 I had transferred all of the wash to three dryers and started them.  I had six apps with updates available totaling just over 400 MB (0.4 GB) and initiated those.  On our 12 GB Verizon data plan that is more than a whole day’s average data usage for a typical month (0.4 x 30 = 12.0).  I also noticed that I had two new updates for apps on my phone but when I looked more carefully I discovered that I had 22 app updates pending.  I had been deferring them until I could use the resort (or other) free Wi-Fi.  When the last iPad app update downloaded and installed I connected my phone to the Resort Wi-Fi and initiated the app updates.

I worked on the draft of today’s blog post and played a few games until the laundry was dry and then folded it and put it in the car.  It was 4 PM at that point and only 10 of the 22 apps had updated, so I pulled the car around in front of the activity building with a clear, short path to the antenna on the roof.  I had a much stronger signal in that location and the updates progressed much more quickly.  23 apps were updated and the process finished at 4:18 PM.  I noticed that my phone had somehow gotten set to show Homestead, Florida as my “home” location so I enabled Location Services, changed it to Arcadia, Florida, and then disabled Location Services.  I checked to see if we had any snail mail and then drove back to our coach and put the clean laundry away.

When I got back to our coach Linda was cooking her part of this evening’s meal.  We would be dining with Mara and Michael at Mara’s rig having “green taco wraps.”  Linda made a crumbled meat substitute from brown lentils, walnuts, sautéed onions, and peppers.  She also supplied the tortillas, lettuce, and vegan sour cream.  Mara made salsa and avocado cream and a side salad with cauliflower, tomatoes, and lemon juice.  We brought a bottle of Chardonnay and Mara had a bottle of Spanish Rioja, a very dry red wine.

We walked over with our contributions just before 6 PM and were greeted by Michael.  Mara had walked to Walmart for some tomatoes and other last minute items and returned not long after we arrived.  Good wine, good food, and good friends made for a great meal.  We were still there at 8 PM and it turned out that we like to watch the same TV programs, so we all watched NCIS.  Linda and I walked back to our coach when the show ended and watched NCISNOLA and Limitless before going to bed.  I watched most of Charlie Rose before falling asleep.

An Egret tries to swallow a fish that it caught near the Myakka River.  Myakka River SP, FL.

An Egret tries to swallow a fish that it caught near the Myakka River. Myakka River SP, FL.

2016/02/24 (W) Another Tornado Warning

Today was planned as a stay-at-home day.  The forecast was for wind and rain with a marginal risk of severe weather.  I was up a little before 7:30 AM and thought about going to the Wednesday coffee “social” but decided against it.  I began preparing our morning coffee but waited until Linda was awake to grind the beans and finish the process.  Linda got our Verizon Mi-Fi and Wi-Fi Ranger online and checked the current weather, which we compared to what was being reported on the local TV news.  Wind and rain were expected in our part of southwest Florida by 10 AM and the Wundermap app radar showed a large storm front drooped from southwest to northeast in advance of a cold front and moving our way.

I finished my first cup of coffee and then went outside and put up the two window awnings on the driver side of our coach.  While I was out there I drained the auxiliary air filter / water separator and stored the two folding bag chairs in the front bay.

We had granola and blueberries for breakfast and it started raining while we finished our coffee.  We both had computer-based work to do today but Linda needed to update some things first.  The rain stopped, at least temporarily, so we packed up our mobile technology and drove over to the activity building to use the RV resort’s public Wi-Fi system.

We set up our tech toys in the library and connected them to the resort’s public Wi-Fi system; two laptop computers, two iPads, and two smartphones.  I had three app updates on my phone and Linda had 14.  She had eight app updates on her iPad and I had one OS-related update on my computer.  Linda downloaded a new audio book.  I downloaded/installed the OfficeSuites Free – Mobile + PDF app on my iPad and the 2016 U. S. RVers Edition (PDF) of The Mobile Internet Handbook by Chris Dunphy and Cherie Ve Ard from the Mobile Internet Aficionados membership website.  We also checked our e-mail while we were there.  Between our six devices we greatly exceeded our average daily data allocation of 0.4 GB that our 10+2 GB Verizon data plan provides.  Our normal 10 GB plan averages out to about 0.3 GB per day, and it is not sufficient for our needs when traveling in the motorcoach.

As we were packing up at 1:30 PM to return to our coach the skies opened up and heavy rains poured forth.  Moments later both of our phones notified us that a tornado warning was in effect for our location until 2 PM.  Our car was parked near the front door of the activity building so we decided not to wait for a lull in the rain.  It was raining even harder by the time we got back to our coach but we had our technology in ballistic nylon travel bags and got them inside without getting them wet.

Linda set up her computer on the desk and I set up mine on the dining room table.  We did not need to be online so we left the Verizon Mi-Fi turned off.  Linda worked on accounting for the bakery while I proofread and annotated corrections for two BCM articles.  When she was done for today I moved my computer to the desk, plugged in the power supply, and spent some time reading and responding to e-mails.

By 3 PM the severe weather threat had passed but densely overcast skies continued with occasional lighter rain.  All of this was, once again, in advance of a cold front that will bring high temperatures only in the upper 60’s for the next four to five days.

For dinner Linda improvised a sauté of onion, garlic, kale, and turmeric with boiled red potatoes.  It was a hardy dish; perfect for a cool, dreary evening.  We watched a PBS Nature episode on Emperor Penguins, a Nova episode on rescue robots, and another program on Big Data.  We then went to bed as we had to be up early in the morning.

 

2016/02/21 (N) Punta Gorda

Our destination today was Punta Gorda.  We arranged last night to pick up Mara and Michael at 9 AM and stop at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and something to eat.  As a result we slept in a bit and did not make coffee or have breakfast.  I stopped at the Shell Station to top off the fuel tank and then pulled into the DD next door.  Coffee and food in hand we headed to downtown Arcadia on FL-70 and then headed south on US-17 to Punta Gorda.

Michael, Mara, and Linda at the historic 1928 train station in Punta Gorda, FL.

Michael, Mara, and Linda at the historic 1928 train station in Punta Gorda, FL.

Mara had researched things to see and do and entered them into the “Map My Plans” app on her iPad.  The app can arrange them in the best order (shortest driving distance) to visit.  Our first stop was an historic train station from 1928 that is now a local history museum.  It was closed on Sunday’s, but we got to see the outside.  Our next stop was an open air arts and crafts market near the Convention Center.  We saw this market last month, when we visited the Woodcarvers Expo at the Convention Center, and it was there again today so we stopped.  Mara bought some earrings and Linda bought an apron.  There was also a husband-wife guitar group playing some very interesting original music that seemed to be of derivative Spanish influence.  They were selling CDs, and I am always tempted to buy one from groups like this as I would likely never find them anywhere else again.  But I didn’t.

This is the front of the historic 1928 train station.  Punta Gorda, FL.

This is the front of the historic 1928 train station. Punta Gorda, FL.

From the arts and crafts market we drove to the farmers’ market.  We also visited this market in January and really liked it.  The same vendors were there so we were able to buy some more Miatake mushrooms and some Sweet Hot pickles.  Linda also bought a selection of fruits and vegetables.

Linda looks over the fruits and vegetables at the Punta Gorda farmers market.

Linda looks over the fruits and vegetables at the Punta Gorda farmers market.

From the farmers market we drove to Ponce de Leon Park and visited the Peace River Wildlife Refuge.  This was also our second visit to this facility, which has an interesting collection of injured birds who are at least living out their lives in comfort and safety.

The front end of a vintage Lincoln at the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda, FL.  Most of the cars were General Motors products.

The front end of a vintage Lincoln at the Muscle Car Museum in Punta Gorda, FL. Most of the cars were General Motors products.

After our visit to the refuge we drove to an alligator preserve but it was closed.  We back-tracked a short distance to the Muscle Car Museum.  Though not free, we paid the nominal admission charge and spent a couple hours examining a very large and very nice collection of Chevy cars and trucks.  Among others they had a couple of 1957 Belairs and a couple of 1967 Cameros.

 

 

 Bruce standing by a red 1957 Chevy Belair.  He had one very similar to this when he was in high school.  Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Bruce standing by a red 1957 Chevy Belair. He had one very similar to this when he was in high school. Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Neither of us are particularly nostalgic about our youth, or any other part of our past for that matter, but I had a 1957 Belair my last three years in high school (in the late 60s) that I customized.  It was not a muscle car but it was candy apple red and it was mine.  Linda’s first car after she graduated from high school and started working was a 1967 Camero.  It was a white convertible with a red interior and a 327 cubic inch V8 under the hood.  It had an automatic transmission, and was not a muscle car, but it was powerful and we took it to from St. Louis, Missouri to Colorado and back on our two-week camping honeymoon right after we got married.

Linda standing by a white 1967 Chevy Camero.  It was similar to the one she owned except that hers was a convertible and had a red interior.  Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda standing by a white 1967 Chevy Camero. It was similar to the one she owned except that hers was a convertible and had a red interior. Muscle Car Museum, Punta Gorda, FL.

We discussed finding a restaurant in Punta Gorda for linner but Mara and Linda did not turn up anything promising.  I set the GPS and started back to our RV resort.  In less than an hour we were back and dropped Mara and Michael at her rig before returning to ours.

Back at the coach we turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi and checked our e-mail.  Gary had sent the first draft of the April 2016 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine for me to proofread.  I went through my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion and started annotating corrections.  I will need to go through it again with the original open for comparison but I was too tired to do that today.

For dinner Linda sautéed the Miatake mushrooms in EVOO with garlic, onion, and Egri Merlot.  She also cooked a spaghetti squash, set out some black grapes, and poured out the remainder of the Merlot, which was left over from last night’s dinner.  This was only the second time we have had Miatake mushrooms and it is difficult to describe in words how exquisitely good they are in terms of taste, texture, sight, and smell.  We agreed that they were the best mushrooms we have ever had.

After dinner I connected the Sony a99v-DSLT to my computer and off-loaded the 105 pictures I took today.  I looked through them quickly but did not see anything that I thought would make a good postcard for Madeline.  My computer seemed to be working again so I backed up photos, blog posts, BCM files, and other files to our NAS.  I tried to access the Backup and Security components in Windows 10 and it appeared they had been restored to proper operation.  I checked for updates and the system said it was up-to-date.  ES|ET Smart Security is still telling me I have 17 updates and most of them appear to be drivers related to the computer hardware and low level system functions.  I need to contact ES|ET and ask them about what this actually means and how to resolve it.

We were going to walk over after dinner and visit with Mara and Michael but all four of us were tired and took a pass.  We watched Father Brown on PBS, the Simpsons and something else on FOX, and then Downton Abbey on PBS.  Linda headed off to bed after Downton Abbey and I watched the end of CSI: Cyber.

 

2016/02/05–09 (F–T) Super Windows Roadtrip

2016/02/05 (F) Windows 10 Upgrade

We had a long day yesterday and even though we were in bed before 11 PM we still slept in until 8 AM this morning.  I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast as we were picking up Mara at 8:50.  We shut down our computers and iPads and packed them for travel.  We set the windows in the bus so the cats would be comfortable.  At 8:45 AM we loaded the car and drove over to get Mara.  We stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then headed west on FL-70 for Ed and Betty Burns’ place in Bradenton.

Everglades National Park entrance sign on the road from Homestead and Florida City, FL.

Everglades National Park entrance sign on the road from Homestead and Florida City, FL.

The main purpose of our visit today was to upgrade Linda’s Samsung laptop computer and my ASUS notebook computer to Windows 10 using Ed and Betty’s unlimited broadband data.  A secondary objective was for Linda to purchase/download the latest version of Turbo Tax.  Our tertiary goal was to update iPad and smartphone apps.

We got to Ed and Betty’s a little after 10 AM, introduced them to Mara, and got busy setting up our computers.  We had a bit of a false start but finally had the Windows 10 installation process launched by 11 AM.  After quite a bit of conversation, Linda and Betty busied themselves making lunch and Mara settled in to go through her mail.  Once the files for Windows 10 appeared to be downloaded I initiated the update process for eight apps on my iPad2.  Betty washed off a bag of red grapes and set them out for all of us to enjoy.

At 12:30 PM we moved our technology to a coffee table in the living room to clear the dining room table for lunch.  Betty made a large pot of vegan chili mac and we had sliced avocado, tortillas, and potato chips to go with it, along with grapes and slices of Meyer lemons for our water.  Florida really is a good place to be if you want to “eat fresh.”

The ladies left around 1:45 PM to go for a walk while Ed and I stayed behind.  I connected my phone to their Wi-Fi and updated a dozen apps.  My computer was finally ready to configure Windows 10 at 2 PM and I went through the customized personalization rather than accepting the Express Setup defaults.  My iPad was up-to-date so I started working on this post while I waited for the Windows 10 process to finally finish.

It took until 2:30 PM for my computer to be fully booted up and usable.  About that same time Linda’s computer was finally ready to configure.  I wanted Linda here for the configuration choices so I waited for her return.  The ladies got back at 2:45 PM and Linda resumed configuring her machine.  We had originally planned to go see the 3 PM practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions in Myakka City, but we would have had to leave at 2 PM to get there.  We will definitely go seem them, but for now this was, once again, deferred to a future day.

Linda purchased, downloaded, and installed the latest version of TurboTax and was done installing updates by 4:20 PM.  Her update process went smoothly, if slowly, and without any apparent hitches.  When the initial Windows 10 upgrade finished on my machine I did not have any of the quick start or system tray icons which concerned me greatly.  After rebooting my computer, more than once, the icons eventually returned.  I installed an undated driver for the NVIDIA GeForce graphics processing unit (GPU).  I also had a problem with the sound but was able to resolve it using the audio troubleshooter.

I rebooted my machine for what I hoped was the last time at 4:45 PM.  It took 15 minutes to fully boot up and I made one more check for updates.  It appeared that the operating system updates were all done but there were still updates to install for Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, both of which are large and tend to take a long time to download.

By this point Betty had opened a couple of bottles of wine and convinced all of us that the collect best option for dinner was to order pizza and eat at their house.  Linda coordinated the pizzas and ordered them from Vertoris’ where we ate last night and which was only seven miles away.  While she and Ed were in transit to get the pizza and salad I updated Photoshop and Lightroom.  I started each program and Photoshop indicated that it had a problem with the video card driver and had disabled some of its enhancement features.  That was not an immediate problem as I do not presently make any use of Photoshop, but the incompatibility was distressing nonetheless.

I had done what I could in the way of updates for today so I shut down my computer and packed it away to clear the table for dinner.  Betty set the table and Linda and Ed returned a short time later with the food.  We sat down to a wonderful meal with friends that finally concluded around 7:30 PM.  It had been a wonderful day with friends and we had gotten a lot accomplished thanks to the use of their technology, but by 7:45 PM we were all tired and the three of us were on our way back to Arcadia.  We dropped Mara back at her motorhome at 8:45 PM and were back at our coach by 8:50 PM.  We watched the end of an episode of Endeavor and then watched another complete episode.  By then we were sleepy tired and went to bed.

2016/02/06 (S) Article Uploads

We slept in this morning until after 8 AM and so did the cats.  We lounged around in our sweats drinking coffee and eventually had granola for breakfast.  It was cloudy with rain coming and we considered spending the day in the bus in our sweats when we remembered that it was the first Saturday of the month.

The Everglades is vast and low, but is not a swamp.  Swamps involve stagnant water.  The Everglades is almost entirely shallow, but constantly flowing, water like a river.  Everglades NP, FL.

The Everglades is vast and low, but is not a swamp. Swamps involve stagnant water. The Everglades is almost entirely shallow, but constantly flowing, water like a river. Everglades NP, FL.

The Arcadia Farmers Market takes place on the first and third Saturday of each month so Linda texted Mara to see if she wanted to go.  She did, so we got dressed, picked her up in the car, and drove downtown.  To our disappointment there were only four vendors there and only two of them were selling food.  One was a local farm that had freshly picked Napa cabbage and locally produced honey.  Linda bought a head of the cabbage and Mara bought a cabbage and a jar of honey.  We took a short walk around downtown and then drove to Joshua Citrus Co.

At Joshua Citrus we bought a few Ruby Red grapefruit and a few Honeybelle tangelos.  Mara also bought a variety of citrus including Meyer lemons.  We stopped at Walmart on the way back to our RV resort for cat litter and a few sundry items while Mara picked up some groceries.  We dropped her at her motorhome and took a minute to meet another couple from Howell, Michigan who were just getting ready to pull out.  We then returned to our rig around 1 PM.

Linda made rollup sandwiches with soft tortillas, Napa cabbage, dark greens, and hummus.  At 1:30 PM she phoned Mara to see if she wanted to go for a walk and headed over to rendezvous with her.  I had a call earlier from Dave Aungier and called him back.  He had downloaded his BCM article from my Dropbox and reviewed it.  We went over a few minor changes, which I made to the Word doc, and discussed the process of submitting it to the magazine and working it through to publication.

Dave and I were done talking by 2 PM and it had started to rain lightly.  Linda had worn her raincoat but returned around 2:30.  By that time I had turned my attention to the three articles that Stacy had finished proofreading and returned to me.  I went through each one and accepted most of the changes.  I then went through each one and made sure I had all of the image files properly identified and organized.  I backed up all of the files, moved them to the READY folder, and then uploaded them to my Dropbox.  Once everything had transferred I e-mailed Gary (BCM publisher) and Jorge (layout) and let them know the files were there.  I had a few more e-mails back and forth with Gary and had to redo a panoramic photo that had discontinuities in it that I had not noticed.

Mara came to our rig to discuss some logistics related to the Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise that she and her friend, Michael, are going on at the end of the month.  As it turns out we will take them to Miami and pick them up when they return and take care of Mara’s two cats while they are away.  Mara waited for a lull in the rain and returned to her rig a little before 6 PM.  For dinner Linda prepared a salad with diced Napa cabbage and honey roasted peanuts and a homemade dressing made with rice wine vinegar, sesame and vegetable oils, Dijon mustard, fresh grated ginger, salt, and pepper.  It was very good.  She then reheated the leftover pizza from the last two nights.  The pizza was exceptional when it was fresh and, although it lost its crisp crust on reheating, it was still tasty as leftovers.

While Mara was visiting the leak around the bedroom ceiling vent/fan reappeared.  The lower outside corner of the lower passenger side windshield also leaked, but we expect that to happen every time until we do something to fix it.

After dinner we watched a couple episodes of Endeavor and then a couple of episodes of As Time Goes By.  After that we watched a PBS documentary on Jason Blair, the discredited New York Times reporter.  We caught a few minutes of news and weather and went to bed.

2016/02/07 (N) Super Sunday

Today was just one of those days.  It also happened to be Super Bowl Sunday, but that’s another story.  As we do most days we started our morning with coffee.”  As she often does on Sunday mornings, Linda made vegan pancakes for breakfast.  We split a ruby red grapefruit as well.

Though much of the Everglades is open, there are stands of trees throughout.  This one had a “face.”  Everglades NP, FL.

Though much of the Everglades is open, there are stands of trees throughout. This one had a “face.” Everglades NP, FL.

Linda walked to Winn-Dixie with Mara while I settled in to work at my computer.  My plan was to edit and upload blog posts but in the end I only got two more posts ready to go and did not get them uploaded.  Not that I was goofing off; I was busy all day but ended up taking care of other things.

For starters, I downloaded an updated version of the Logitech SetPoint software for my Logitech UltraThin Touch Mouse and then reconfigured the settings.  The mouse is capable of a variety of things with just subtle movements but seemed to be less stable than before the Windows 10 upgrade.  I was also having problems with my cursor jumping around while typing.  I initially noticed it while typing e-mails but noticed it later while working in Word.  Linda had the presence of mind to suggest that it might be the touchpad.  Sure enough, the touchpad was active.  That had not occurred to me because it wasn’t active under Windows 8.1.  Apparently the upgrade to Windows 10 activated it.  So much for maintaining my existing settings.

I had additional e-mails back and forth with Gary and Jorge at BCM, as result of which I updated the BCM page on our website.  I also e-mailed Brenda Phelan to check on the status of our tire covers.  When I finally got to work on blog posts I selected and processed several photos from our visit on Thursday to the Ringling Estate.  I then edited the two posts mentioned previously.

When Linda got back from Winn-Dixie she made rollup sandwiches for lunch with dark leafy greens and garlic hummus in soft tortillas.  We had red grapes to go with the sandwiches.  After lunch she walked up to the mail room.  I got a happy birthday card from our daughter and son-in-law, which was nice.  The eight pounds of coffee we ordered from Teeko’s back home had also arrived.  I checked the order to make sure it was correct.  It was, so I stored the box as we won’t need it for another couple of weeks.  I exchanged a couple of text messages with my daughter and decided it would be easier to just call her.  We had a nice chat.

Mara walked down to our coach mid-late afternoon and the three of us went for a vigorous walk through the entire RV resort.  We all returned to our bus and visited long enough for me to demonstrate the mapped location history feature in RVillage.  Mara headed back to her rig around 5:30 PM and Linda started fixing our dinner.  She made vegan Sloppy Joe’s with TVP and baked sweet potato fries.  Yum.

Eventually it was time for Super Bowl L (50).  I had intended to continue working at my computer all evening but my enthusiasm had waned and I found the game distracting.  We kept the volume down and played games until 9 PM and then switched the TV to PBS and watched Downton Abbey.  When it was over we switched back to the game.  It looked like the Denver Broncos were going to beat the Carolina Panthers so we watched a documentary on PBS/World about a family in Japan.  Linda went to bed when it was over but I switched to PBS/Create and watched a tribute concert to American film composer John Williams.  Jasper curled up with me for a while and then indicated it was time to go to bed.

2016/02/08 (M) Travel Prep

It got down to 40 degrees F outside last night and dropped into the upper 50’s in the coach.  Juniper stayed close to us for most of the night and snuggled up next to my head around 4:30 AM.  The cats must have eaten most of their food during the night as by 7 AM Juniper was most insistent that I get up.  I finally did at 7:15 AM, fed them, turned on the furnace, and made our morning coffee.  Linda was up by 7:30, plugged in the charging cable for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and was playing word games by the time the coffee was ready.  That girl really likes her word games

An Anhinga pruning its feathers.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Anhinga pruning its feathers. Everglades NP, FL.

Linda checked our Verizon account via her iPad and we had used 7.03 of our 10 GB of monthly data plus the 2 GB of extra allocation we got for downloading and installing the Verizon go90 app on our phones.  The data usage function on the Mi-Fi device (Novatel 5510L) showed 9.03 out of 12 GB as it combines all available data, so they were in agreement.  It’s a good thing we have the extra 2 GB each month for the next few billing cycles.  This current cycle (January 20 through February 19) has included iOS and app updates for both of our iPads, app updates for our Android phones, uploading of four BCM articles to our Dropbox (with lots of photos), numerous e-mails with large attachments, and upgrades from Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 on both of our computers.  Even though we made some use of the resort Wi-Fi while at the laundry room, and did the Windows OS and some iPad/smartphone upgrades at Ed and Betty Burns’ place using their unlimited broadband connection, it has been a heavy period of data usage for our Verizon account.  Twelve gigabytes is not enough data to get us through a typical month while we are away from home.

We had granola for breakfast with fresh fruit and juice and then settled in to finish our coffee and doodle on our iPads.  I e-mailed my blog posts for the last five days to myself and then download/installed the Gmail app on my iPad2.  We took showers, got dressed, straightened up the bathroom, and got on with our chores.  I turned on the electric block heater for the engine to warm it up for a maintenance start later today.

We are headed to Homestead and the Florida Keys tomorrow for four days so today was, in part, a travel preparation day.  Linda’s first task was a trip to the post office to mail the book she bought at The Ringling estate for Madeline’s Valentine’s Day present.

We are taking the car and leaving the cats behind in Mara’s care so Linda wanted to clean up the bus a bit.  We also both needed haircuts.  Linda made a 1 PM appointment at a place near the Winn-Dixie.  One of my tasks was doing laundry which I took care of at 11 AM.  Linda finally got hold of a real, live person at the Florida Toll Road Sunpass system but the account is in my name and they would not talk to her.  She found me in the laundry room and worked her way through the phone menu until she got back to an actual person and then put me on the phone.  The woman was very nice and very efficient and it only took about 10 minutes to get our account reconfigured so we could access it.  We logged in and confirmed that we still have a credit balance and updated our credit card information.

When I was done with the laundry I turned on the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop.  When Linda got back from her appointment she cut my hair.  Another task was giving Mara a key to our coach and going over the care and feeding of our feline friends.  Linda took care of that.

A few days ago our Progressive Industries EMS threw another PE2 error code, which indicates an open ground.  The current error code is 0 (zero), indicating that everything is OK, so it is/was obviously a momentary problem.  Presumably the problem is in the resort wiring as that is what the PI EMS is designed to monitor and protect against.  I wanted to do done things with the bus chassis today so I took care of this at the same time.  Unlike last time, I shut off the circuit breaker at the power pole, unplugged the shorepower cable, cycled the breaker a couple of times to wipe the contacts, cleaned the contacts on the plug, inserted and removed it several times to clean the contacts in the outlet, plugged it back in, and turned the breaker back on.  All of that was designed to clean electrical contacts and remove a possible marginal connection.

Another thing I did today was start the bus engine, let it warm up, moved the bus aft and for slightly to make sure the brakes were not frozen, and re-leveled the coach before shutting the engine down.  I shut of the block heater and Aqua-Hot burner before starting the engine.  We are a little over half way through our stay here at Big Tree RV Resort and given the often humid, rainy conditions I wanted to make sure the brakes were not rusted closed.  I also wanted to check the fuel gauge as we have been running the Aqua-Hot diesel-fired hydronic heating system on cold mornings and it uses about 1/4 gallon of diesel fuel per hour when operating.  When I was done with this process I turned on the fuel polishing pump so it could run while we were away.

We still had enough gallons of fresh water on board that I decided not to dump and fill the tanks today.  With the engine/chassis stuff taken care of my main focus today, when not preparing for our trip, doing laundry, eating meals, going for walks, and dealing with e-mails, was working on my blog.  It may be the thing I want to do, but it is often not the thing I need to do, or in some cases, the thing I have to do.

I failed to record what we had for dinner but I’m sure it was tasty.  We watched TV for a while and then went to bed.

2016/02/09 (T) Road Trip

My night was interrupted around 1:30 AM by very strong wind gusts.  All of the awnings were out except the large patio awning and were perfectly capable of being damaged by the gusts.  I put on my sweats, slipped into my Crocs, and went outside to stow the awnings.  The two bedroom window awnings and the driver side living room awning are held open by straps with a loop on the end that slips over a hook mounted on the side of the coach.  The roller tubes are spring loaded and self-retract when the straps are released.  While retracting they have to be controlled, using a long metal rod with a right angle bend on one end and a semi-circle handle on the other, but are otherwise easy to deploy and stow.  Besides the possibility of the fabric tearing where it mounts to the body or the roller tube, we had the front end of the driver side front awning flipped up by a strong wind gust in Sheridan, Wyoming.  I would not have believed that was possible unless I had seen it happen, but we were not about to risk having it happen again.

An Egret stalks its prey.  Everglades NP, FL.

An Egret stalks its prey. Everglades NP, FL.

I spite of my sleep being interrupted I was up at 7 AM.  As we do every morning, we fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray.  We finished packing, adjusted the windows, loaded the car, pulled out as of our site a little before 8 AM, and stopped at the dumpster to drop off a bag of kitchen trash.  We drove to the local Shell station to fill the fuel tank and stopped next door at Dunkin Donuts for coffee and something to eat.  We then headed east on FL-70.

Our destination was Homestead, Florida and Everglades National Park.  Our route was FL-70 east to US-27 south to FL-821 south (which is part of the Florida Toll Road system) to its terminus at US-1 in Florida City just south of Homestead.  From there we headed west through Florida City and on to Everglades National Park.  This part of Florida is very flat but it was still an interesting drive.  It was cloudy and cool for the whole drive down.

We stopped at the Visitor Center to get a map and stamp our National Parks “Passport.”  We entered the park using Linda’s Senior Access Pass and a few miles in stopped at the Anhinga and Limbo Gumbo trails area.  We walked both trails, each about 1/2 mile in length, and I took quite a few photos.  By the time we got back to our car it was 1:30 PM.  We were hungry and wanted to get more information about boat tours so we drove the 34 miles to Flamingo.  We had lunch at the Buttonwood Cafe and went over to the Marina to check on buying fuel.  They wanted over $5 per gallon so I passed.

We also checked on the pontoon boat tours.  Two different tours were available, one into Florida Bay and the other into the Mangroves.  Both tours left on the hour starting at 9 AM with the last one departing at 4 PM.  The tours lasted just under two hours, and cost $35.  They did not take reservations and tickets could only be purchased the same day.  We decided to return to the park tomorrow and deferred any decision about the boats until then.

By this time, it was late enough in the day that we decided to start back towards the entrance 34 miles away.  We stopped at Pa-Hay-Okee and hiked the boardwalk before leaving the park for the day.  On the way back to our hotel we stopped at a Shell station in Florida City and filled the fuel tank for a more reasonable price per gallon.  We found the hotel, a Hampton Inn just off exit #2 of the Florida Toll Road between Florida City and Homestead, and checked in.  We had lunch rather later and were undecided about what to do for dinner, or when.  We drove across the street to the Publix supermarket, bought snacks for tomorrow, and bought red grapes, hummus, and sourdough pretzel nibblers to have for dinner in our room.

We had Direct TV in our room but eventually found PBS and CBS and watched our usual Tuesday night programs.  We also found The Weather Channel and Weather Nation and checked the current weather and forecast for the next few days with great interest.  Some of the coldest weather of the year was dropping down through the upper Midwest and Great Lakes, affecting the Northeast, mid-South, mid-Atlantic, and Deep South past our location and all the way to Key West. We had brought a variety of clothing, so we were prepared.

 

2016/02/01 (M) – 2016/02/04 (R) Southwest Florida

2016/02/01 (M) Tabbed

We had coffee and then granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast.  After breakfast we gave Jasper his nose drops.  Linda then went for a walk that took her to Walmart where she picked up a few grocery items.  I continued working on photos for Dave Aungier’s BCM article.

When Linda got back I decided to put the new tabs on the license plates (car and bus).  We were able to renew the registration/tabs online and have them mailed directly to the RV resort.  Putting the new tabs on was a bit more work than just peel and stick as I keep protective plastic covers over the license plates and secure them with “tamper proof” bolts and Nylok nuts.  That required special tools which I had to get out.

Once I got the plates off the vehicles and separated from the covers I washed them and stood them up to dry.  While they were drying I washed off the areas of the vehicles where the plates mount.  I peeled four layers of old tabs off of each plate so I could put the new tabs directly on the plates.  I reassembled the protective covers on the plates, mounted them back on the vehicles, and put the tools away.  The final step was to remove the expired registrations from our wallets and replace them with the new ones.  The whole process took about an hour but it felt good to have it done.

While I was outside I drained the auxiliary air system water separator (which I do every few days).  I also opened the drain on the auxiliary air tank but it was dry.  That was good, and meant the water separator is doing its job.

Linda made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  She read for a half hour and I continued working on photos while we digested our lunch before changing into our swim suits and walking over to the pool.  There were quite a few people in the pool so we stayed in the shallow end, walking and swimming from side to side.  When we were done exercising we spent a few minutes in the spa (hot tub / whirlpool) and then showered and changed into dry clothes that we brought with us.

We stopped at the mail room and found our electric bill for January in our mailbox.  Linda walked back later and paid the bill and also our rental fee for February but realized later that they did not charge us enough.  She thought they might have charged us for someone else’s campsite.  When I checked my e-mail I had one from Gary at BCM.  He forwarded one from Jorge with a Dropbox link to a draft of the March 2016 issue and a request to proofread both of my articles and provide any needed corrections ASAP.  I finished the task before dinner, uploaded the PDF file, and e-mailed them back.

For dinner Linda made Farro with dried cranberries, onions, garlic, greens, and hot pepper flakes.  We finally finished the Franzia Crisp White boxed wine, which went well enough with the dish.  After dinner I washed some of the grapes that Linda bought today and we settled in to watch the PBS Newshour, the X-Files, Lucifer, and NCIS Los Angeles.  We went to bed and tuned in PBS for coverage of the Iowa Caucuses before going to sleep.  I don’t recommend political coverage as a way to fall asleep peacefully.

A small piece of the enormous Tibbels miniatures circus model at the Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, FL.

A small piece of the enormous Tibbels miniatures circus model at the Ringling Museum complex, Sarasota, FL.

2016/02/02 (T) Mara Arrives

The humidity rose sharply as the temperature dropped last night.  That made for cool, but sticky, conditions at bedtime; the one combination that we do not have a way to counteract.  We woke around 7:30 AM to dense fog and were less than fully rested, but a nice pot of coffee at least cleared away the cobwebs.  The fog disappeared soon enough to reveal partly cloudy skies.  The sun was bright and hot but there was a mild breeze, making the morning feel somewhat tropical.  We had toast and jam for breakfast with our usual orange-grapefruit juice.

Linda went for a walk after breakfast and stopped at the office to correct our rental payment for February.  While she was walking I resumed my work on Dave Aungier’s article for Bus Conversion Magazine.  I finished selecting, processing, and inserting photos for the print version of the article and then set it aside.  It had been nine days since I dumped the waste tanks and filled the fresh water tank and we were down to 1/6th of a tank of fresh water.  That’s about 20 gallons so we could have gone one more day, but we are not boondocking and do not have any reason to run the tank all the way to empty.  Besides, the water pump works a lot better when the tank is full.

Linda stopped at Walmart on her walk and returned carrying four small bags of groceries while I was servicing the tanks.  She also got a text from Mara indicating that she was about to pull out and head our way.  Once the fresh water tank was full I left the water hose turned on and added the tank treatment to the toilet and sinks while Linda did the dishes.  Once we were done I shut off the shore water and we returned to operating off of the fresh water tank using the onboard pump.

As long as I was doing chores I cut the power to the coach, waited 30 seconds, and turned it back on to reset the Progressive Industries EMS Previous Error (PE) Code 2 (open ground).  This error occurred during the last storm while we’re away from the coach.

With our chores done Linda thought we should go for a swim so we changed into our suits and walked over to the pool.  Some of the Quebec residents were playing Petanque (pronounced “p’tunk”) and there was a shuffleboard tournament about to commence.  I gathered from the instructions being given to the teams that Big Tree Carefree RV Resort was hosting teams from another RV park.  There was no one else at the pool when we arrived and we had it to ourselves for about 10 minutes.  A woman showed up and asked if it was OK with us if she put on her water aerobics music and did her exercises.  Sure!  Why not.  Linda joined in and eventually a third woman joined them.  I went to the deeper end of the pool and swam back and forth from side to side.

I got out of the pool while the ladies were still exercising, took a quick dip in the hot tub, and then showered.  I changed into my other pair of swim trunks (XXL) and cinched them tight.  They make a very comfortable pair of shorts for warm days and it doesn’t matter if they get wet

Massive Banyan Trees at Ca’ D’Zan, John and Mabel Ringling’s former winter estate on Sarasota Bay, now part of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Massive Banyan Trees at Ca’ D’Zan, John and Mabel Ringling’s former winter estate on Sarasota Bay, now part of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

We were back at our coach by 2:30 PM and Barb, across the street, invited us to hang our suits and towels on their clothesline, which we did.  Linda made roll up sandwiches with garlic hummus, onion, and lots of dark, leafy greens for a later-than-usual lunch.  After lunch she sat outside and read while I updated my water usage spreadsheet.  Linda got another text from Mara that she had arrived so we moseyed over to her site behind the swimming pool.  Mara passed us in her motorhome going the other way as she was being led away from the office to her site.  We stopped at the office on the way to make sure they had cleared up our February billing correctly and to check our mailbox.  They had; no mail.  The Québécois were done playing Petanque for the day but the shuffleboard tournament was in full swing.  The parking volunteer was just getting Mara backed in as we arrived at her site.  We left her alone while she blocked and leveled her motorhome, extended the slides, shut down the engine, plugged in the shorepower cord, and deployed the awnings and windshield sunshades.  Good RV etiquette is to not bother people while they make/break camp.

We visited briefly but did not stay.  Mara had stopped at the Walmart for groceries before entering the resort and needed to put them away and then have something to eat.  Linda invited her to come down for dinner and she accepted.

When we got back to our coach the inside thermometer read 89 degrees F.  That was just a bit too hot for my comfort, and for the cats too.  I turned off the electric heating element for the domestic hot water.  We closed up the coach and turned on the front and center air-conditioners, but not the one in the bedroom.  The front and center units are on separate legs of the 240/120 VAC system.  Even before I turned the units on the voltage was 115 VAC on L1 and 112 VAC on L2 with very little current draw.  With A-C units on these voltages dropped to 112 and 109 respectively.  That is very marginal for our PI EMS, especially the L2 voltage.  This was the first situation we have been in where I wished I had a Hughes Autoformer boosting transformer.

I opened the bottle of Beringer Red Moscato that we have had in the refrigerator for a while and Linda and I had a glass while we waited for Mara.  Linda called Mara at 7 PM and she was not sure how to find our coach in the dark so I walked over to the activity building at 7 PM to meet her and we walked back together.  We gave Mara the grand tour of our remodeling efforts and then poured some more wine.  Both cats allowed Mara to interact with them, which was unusual and perhaps a sign that Jasper’s health was finally improving.

For dinner Linda made a salad, seitan stroganoff, and fresh strawberries for dessert.  We chatted before, during, and after dinner about where we had each been and what we had been doing since we last crossed paths in July and what our plans were for 2016 and beyond.  By 8:45 PM we had covered a lot of ground but had not been for our after dinner walk.

It had been a long day for Mara and she was ready to get back to her cats so we walked back to her rig with her and extended our walk through the Resort before returning to our coach.  We watched a fascinating program on the assassination of President James Garfield and then turned off the air-conditioners, opened a couple of bedroom windows, opened the roof vent-fan in the bathroom, and turned the fan on in exhaust mode.  We went to bed and watched Charlie Rose before finally turning out the lights and going to sleep.

2016/02/03 (W) Laundry Swimming

 

Jasper woke me up early with his sniffles and sneezing and I had trouble falling back asleep.  Our little guy is obviously uncomfortable with whatever it is that he has and I stroked his back and scratched his chin for quite a while.  I finally got up a little after 7 AM and walked over to the Wednesday morning coffee, as much out of curiosity and to have something to do as anything else.  I noticed as I was leaving that the gasket in the rear vertical edge of the entry door window was coming out at the top again and made a mental note to fix it later today.

The living room at Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

The living room at Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

While I was gone Linda got up, got dressed, stripped the bed, and decided to go for an early morning walk.  I know, because I met her about half way back to our coach.  I ground the coffee beans and prepped the coffee pot.  When I saw her walking down Front Street towards our site I started brewing the coffee so it would be ready shortly after she arrived.  We had granola with blueberries for breakfast but did not have fruit juice or take our pills.  Later.

It was already 72 degrees F outside and anywhere from 75 to 79 degrees F inside, depending on which thermometer or thermostat I looked at.  I don’t believe any of them anymore but I figured collectively it was somewhere between 74 and 80 degrees F in the coach.  The forecasted high for today was 86 degrees F and based on the low level clouds streaming in from the south looked to be a humid day as well.  It’s always better to keep a space cool and dry than it is to try to cool it off and dehumidify it after the fact.  I turned off the bathroom ceiling exhaust fan and closed the roof vent and closed the two open windows in the bedroom.  I noticed that the bottom horizontal gaskets on these windows are not staying in their mounting grooves.  Ugh.  I love our old bus, but there are some aspects of it that I seem to have to keep fixing, which is not my most favorite thing to do.  Oh well, at this point we are definitely “in for a dime, in for a dollar.”

We doodled on our iPads until it was time for Linda to walk to the swimming pool for the 10 AM water aerobics class.  While she was exercising I selected and processed a couple of photos for her to use with her weekly postcard to Madeline.  She normally takes care of this on Tuesday.

We will be away from the coach and Resort the next two days so I needed to do laundry today.  While I was gathering up the soiled clothes and linens I got a call from Dave Aungier.  He was following up to see that I got the draft of his article from Bonnie.  I brought him up to date on the status of the work, which I hope to have finished before I go to bed this evening.

I also had an e-mail from Jorge with the correct Dropbox link for the final version of the March 2016 issue of BCM.  I needed to do a final proofread on my two articles and get back to him by the end of the day.

Linda got back from exercising and swimming just as I was getting ready to leave for the laundry room.  The washers and dryers were all in use and I had to wait a while for washing machines to open up.  Linda texted to see if I needed help and walked over to assist.  I brought my computer and continued working on Dave Aungier’s BCM article while our clothes were being washed and dried.  I got all of the digital edition bonus photos selected and processed, so I should be able to wrap the article up tonight and make it available for Dave to proofread.  I also got two small Windows 8.1 updates downloaded and installed, but the Internet connection was not fast so that’s all I was able to do.

 Exterior detail of Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Exterior detail of Ca’ D’Zan, Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

We folded and hung all the dry clothes and loaded them in the car, which I drove back while Linda walked (no room to ride).  We were back at our coach by 2:45 PM, three hours and 15 minutes after I left to take care of this chore.  After putting the clean clothes away Linda walked back to the pool to look for her Tilley hat.  While she was gone I checked the level of the kitchen counter.  It was level, so starting the engine and re-leveling the coach was not something I had to do today.  Linda returned, hat on head, so we avoided the inevitable sadness of a lost Tilley hat.

The two front air conditioners were not able to keep up with the heat, in large part because the middle unit is not working very well.  Presumably it needs to be charged, but Butch has done that before so the root cause has to be something that needs to be repaired, such as a refrigerant leak and/or a bad seal that is reducing the pumping effectiveness of the compressor.  A secondary problem is that we cannot run the bedroom A-C unit at the same time as the front one since they are on the same leg (L1) and the voltage at our coach is already too low with just the one unit running.

At 4 PM we walked to the pool for an afternoon swim.  When we returned to our coach I retrieved the latest, and hopefully final, draft of the March 2016 issue of BCM and proofread my two articles.  I had one minor correction for each article and e-mailed them back to the publisher and layout person.  While I was working on this I got an e-mail from Kristine Gullen with a question for Linda which resulted in a group text message conversation.  We received a “hold the date” notice at our house, which our daughter let us know about, for the October 22 wedding of Kristine’s son Nickolas.  We will make a point of being back by October 15 from our trip to the Canadian Maritimes and New England.

For dinner we had a salad and the left over Farro with cranberries and seitan stroganoff.  After dinner we retracted the large patio awning as a precaution in advance of rain and possible thunderstorms forecast for tomorrow in association with a cold front approaching from the northwest.  We then emptied out the back of the car and removed the passenger side rear seat and the wooden storage structure to allow the driver side rear seat to be lowered into position and secured.  We rearranged the things stored in the front bay of the bus to make room for the car seat, and several other things that were stored in the car, moving a few things to the passenger side engine bay.  We should have done this earlier in the day when it was light but doing it in the morning would have been a disaster.  We should have done this as soon as we got settled at Big Tree RV Resort but it wasn’t pressing then and we got busy with other things.

We went for a stroll around the resort and dropped off the trash along the way.  Back at our coach we had a glass of Beringer Red Moscato wine and watched Nova on PBS.  Mara sent Linda a text indicating that Sabra (one of her cats) was still having issues and she had decided not to go with us tomorrow to the Ringling Brothers museum in Sarasota.

After Nova we put the linens back on the bed.  I then converted Dave Aungier’s article from Word to PDF, uploaded it to a folder in our Dropbox, and sent him an e-mail with the link.  I caught some news, weather, and Charlie Rose and then went to sleep.

2016/02/04 (R) A Ringling Birthday

We were up by 7:15 AM this morning but I did not make coffee and we did not have breakfast.  We got dressed for a day away from our coach and I repacked the camera bag.  We left at 8:30 AM and stopped at the local Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a bite to eat.  We were on our way to Sarasota a little before 9 AM.  We took FL-70 west to I-75 and headed south to the University Blvd. exit.  We headed west to the end of the road at Bayshore Drive, and arrived at the John and Mabel Ringling Estate at 10 AM.  Steve and Karen arrived just ahead of us and we parked right next to them.NOko

Linda and Karen rest on the patio of Ca’ D’Zan and study the map of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

Linda and Karen rest on the patio of Ca’ D’Zan and study the map of the Ringling Museums complex, Sarasota, FL.

The 66 acre estate was the location of John and Mabel Ringlings’ winter home, Ca’ D’Zan, starting in 1926 when it was finished.  Mabel died three years later and John continued to use the house until 1936 when he passed away.  John was one of the seven Ringling brothers of circus fame.  In addition to their 36,000 square foot home the estate includes an amazing art museum to house their extensive collection.  There is also a circus museum and a building that houses the Tibbels scale model circus that Howard Tibbels spent 60 years creating.  John and Mabel did not have any children and the entire estate was left to the people (State) of Florida when John died.  The entire estate is now part of The Florida State University and the Ringling Art Museum is the official art museum of the State of Florida.

Ca’ D’Zan sits on Sarasota Bay and is a wonderful home in the Venetian Gothic style.  We went on one of the longer, guided tours, so we got to see more of the house than we would have on a self-guided tour but not as much as the even longer (and more expensive) “behind-the-scenes” tour.

The Tibbels circus model is 1/16th scale, i.e., 3/4″ to the foot.  The model covers a large area and illustrates every facet of an early 20th century major circus of the type that traveled from town to town by rail.  Not only is the model an amazing thing to see, and an amazing thing for one man to have created, but it gave us an understanding of how a major circus of this period functioned.  The logistics involved were impressive to say the least.

We finished our day at the Ringling Museums complex around 4:30 PM with a visit to the gift shop where Linda bought a book for Madeline for Valentine’s Day.  Back at our cars we drove north on US-41 (Tamiami Trail) about three miles to Vertoris’ Pizzeria for my birthday dinner.  Vertoris’ turned out to be a small, unassuming place with seating for maybe 24 people.  They offered quite a variety of pizzas, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free, but had lots of other Italian dishes.  I had vegan butternut squash ravioli, Linda had a vegan pizza, Karen had baked ziti, and Steve had the largest piece of lasagna I have ever seen.  Karen and I had a glass of Chianti, and Linda had a different Italian red (but did not recall the name when we got home).  The restaurant had vegan cupcakes so Linda, Karen, and I each had one while Steve had a cannoli.

 Detail view of one exterior wall of the modern addition to the Ringling Art Museum, Sarasota, FL.

Detail view of one exterior wall of the modern addition to the Ringling Art Museum, Sarasota, FL.

Our son called last night to wish me happy birthday and our daughter texted me at 3:40 PM today to do the same.  I saw the text at 5 PM after we were at the restaurant and texted her back.  My phone battery was depleted, which is unusual for my phone, so I turned it off.

We were done with our meal by 6:30 PM, made arrangements for our next get-together, and went our separate ways.  Steve and Karen headed south on Tamiami Trail 28 miles back to Nokomis and we headed north three miles to FL-70.  Three tenths of a mile shy of FL-70 we encountered a serious traffic backup and I could see a large assemblage of emergency vehicles up ahead.  We were already in the right hand lane and eventually got to FL-70 (53rd St.) and made the turn.  US-41 beyond the intersection was blocked by the police.  We did not slow down to gawk, which I find really annoying, and all we saw were emergency vehicles; lots of emergency vehicles.

It was raining when we left Vertoris’ and it got a lot heavier as we traveled east on FL-70.  Somewhere east of Myakka City we drove out of the rain and did not encounter any more the rest of the way home.  We arrived around 7:45 PM to find the grass at our RV site was wet, so we knew it had rained at some point.  After bringing our stuff in from the car we started our Verizon Mi-Fi, started up our various technology devices, and I plugged in my phone to charge.  Linda texted Mara to see if she wanted to go with us to Ed and Betty’s tomorrow morning.  Mara replied that she did so Linda communicated the plans and timing for the morning.

Linda checked the weather and the rain was moving our way from whence we had just come.  It was forecast to arrive around 9 PM, which it did, and be done by 11, which it was.  In between in oscillated between heavy and light.

 

2016/01/26-31 (T-N) Coming Off The Road

2016/01/26 (T) Filter Me This

The low temperature overnight was forecast to be 50 degrees F.  That’s good sleeping weather for us, so we left several windows open and did not need the furnace and I did not turn on the heater pad on the bed.

As I have written the last couple of days I have not been feeling quite right.  This morning I had a productive cough.  That is never a good thing but it is better than having stuff in my lungs that won’t come out.  I was feeling better today so perhaps I am finally kicking out whatever it is that got hold of me.

I made our morning coffee and used up the last of the current batch of coffee beans.  We have used six pounds of coffee in the last 60 days; a pound every 10 days on average.  We left home with eight pounds of coffee from Teeko’s; two pounds each of four different beans/blends packaged in 1/2 pound vacuum sealed bags.  I blend pairs of beans in equal proportion when I grind them to make our daily half-caffe morning coffee.  We have four 1/2 pound bags left, which will carry us for about 20 more days at our current rate of consumption.  We have been vacillating about whether to order more beans from Teeko`s but decided today that we probably should, and do so relatively soon.

The entrance to Gold Tree MH community in Bradenton, Florida where our friends, Ed and Betty Burns, bought a place after they came of the road as full time RVers of many years.

The entrance to Gold Tree MH community in Bradenton, Florida where our friends, Ed and Betty Burns, bought a place after they came of the road as full time RVers of many years.

Breakfast was our usual, but always scrumptious, granola and fresh blueberries with orange/grapefruit juice.  After breakfast Linda spent some time trying to get in touch with someone from the Florida Sunpass (toll road) system but was unable to ever speak to an actual human being.  We have a Sunpass transponder in our Honda Element from two years ago and have a Sunpass account to go with it.  Unfortunately, we did not record the details of that account in our password app and have been unable to access the account to see if it is still active, has a credit balance, or to add money.  Up to this point we have not needed to use the Florida toll roads, but eventually we will.  She finally got frustrated, sent an e-mail to their contact address, and then went for a walk

When she returned from her stroll, Linda busied herself with her counted crisis-stitch project.  Last night she made arrangements for us to visit SE Florida and the Florida Keys.  She zeroed in on February 9, 10, and 11 and confirmed that Mara was willing/able to take care of our cats while we were away.  After looking at various options we decided that we wanted to use Homestead, Florida as a base from which to explore the area.  One reason was that the prices for lodging in Marathon were $200+ per night and in Key West $400+ per night.  We are not late night party animals, so we did not need to spend that kind of money just to have a place we could stumble home to in the middle of the night.

 

The best price she found for a hotel was a well-rated Travel Lodge in Homestead for $109 per night but Trivago would not let her specify a non-smoking room.  The Travel Lodge website clearly showed both smoking and non-smoking rooms so we were not about to risk ending up in a smoking room.  The next best deal was for a non-smoking room in a Hampton Inn for $160 per night, which includes breakfast.  We have always liked Hampton Inns and as a bonus they did not have a reservation cancellation fee.  She booked us for the three nights.

Our plan is to leave early on the 9th and visit Everglades National Park via the Homestead entrance.  We will then check in to the Inn late in the afternoon.  On the 10th we will leave early and drive through the Keys, seeing what there is to see along the way, and eventually arriving in Key West.  We will get a taste of the Conch Republic but leave in time to get back to the Inn in Homestead at a reasonable hour.  On the 11th we might return to Everglades National Park and/explore other things in the area.  We will probably sleep in on the 12th, enjoy the complimentary breakfast (as much of it as we can eat), and then check out and head back to Arcadia.

While Linda was walking and working on her project I edited seven more blog posts.  Late morning I took a break to finish the regeneration of the water softener.  I removed the clear housing from the pre-filter housing attached to the inlet on the water softener, removed the diverter tube and flat washer, and returned them to the plastic zip lock bag I store them in.  I put the opaque blue housing back on without a filter element inside and ran water through the tank to flush out any remaining salt brine.  I tested the water coming out of softener and it was at 1.5 gpg.  That was a very discouraging result given that I just used almost 52 ounces of table salt to regenerate it.  In the 3-1/2 years we have owned this water softener I have only once successfully regenerated the softener back to zero (0) grains per gallon.  Overall it has been a disappointing purchase.

It was time to replace the sediment filter ahead of the softener and the carbon filter going into the fresh water tank but we did not bring spare cartridges with us.  I took a minute to take several pictures of the caulk that is peeling loose from our new passenger side lower windshield and attached one to a text message to Chuck Spera which resulted in a brief exchange.  I then took the car and went on an errand run.

My first stop was Walmart where I found a pair of 5 micron 10″ sediment filter cartridges, a pair of 10″ charcoal wrapped taste and odor whole house filter cartridges, two 48 ounce boxes of coarse Kosher salt for future regenerations, and a bag of animal crackers.  (I checked the label and they did not contain animal products)

My next stop was the local NAPA Auto Parts Store.  They had small tubes of silicone adhesive caulk, both black and clear, but I did not buy any at this time.  My next stop was the local Shell station where I topped up the fuel tank.  I then moved the car next door to the Dunkin Donuts and got a frozen mocha latte made with almond milk.  It was warm today and I wanted a treat.

Back at our coach I measured our windshield wipers and then e-mailed Brenda Phelan the dimensions so she can send us the correct sun covers along with the tire covers we ordered from her and Bill at the Tampa RV Supershow.  With that done I contacted Florida Grande Motor Coach Resort near Webster, Florida to see if we could take advantage of their 2-for-1 special and stay two weeks for the weekly rate.

Our current departure date from Big Tree RV Resort in Arcadia is March 7th.  Florida Grande was able to take us starting on that date for two weeks so I made the reservation.  The resort is south of Ocala and The Villages, north of Bushnell, northeast of Brooksville, northwest of Lakeland, and west of Orlando, so it is centrally situated to a part of the state where we can easily spend two weeks exploring and touching base with some friends in the area.

With Florida Grande in hand I pulled up the website for Jetty Park Beach and Campground at Port Canaveral on Cape Canaveral.  We were hoping that we could get in there when we left Florida Grande.  Our GLCC friends, Pat and Vickie Lintner, moved to Jetty Park when they left Fort Wilderness at Disney World in mid-February.  They have done this every year for at least the last six years.  I visited them there two years ago after dropping Linda at the Orlando airport, so I know it’s a nice little park in a unique location and an ideal place to explore Florida’s Space Coast.

The Jetty Park online reservation system indicated that no sites of the type we wanted (full hookup) were available starting on March 21st but said to call or e-mail the office.  I knew from my conversations with Pat and Vickie that the park campground was extremely popular with repeat visitors who book their reservations a year in advance.  They had also told me that folks occasionally cancel reservations but if I called and checked repeatedly we might be able to get in.

I got an answering machine and left my name, cell phone number, and the dates we were interested in.  I got a call back a short time later from Scott.  He was able to put us on a site for one night on March 21st at the daily rate, and a different sight for seven nights starting on the 22nd, which qualified for the weekly rate.  Sold.

Jetty Park is a bit more expensive than what we normally like to spend for camping but it is on the Atlantic Ocean between the Kennedy Spaceflight Center and Cocoa Beach.  It is also on the south shore of the channel that separates the park from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Spaceflight facility as well as and a U. S. Navy submarine base.  If you are there at the right time submarines can be viewed as they are going into or out of the base.  The Port/channel is used heavily by cruise ships, including the Disney Cruise Lines.  If the timing is right, rocket launches can also be viewed from there, up close and personal.  I was lucky enough to see a military satellite launch when I was there two years ago.  My recollection is that it was me and about 10,000 other people, not only in the park but lining the access roads for miles to the west.  I remember thinking then that it would be much better to be camped at Jetty Park Campground than fighting this traffic after the launch.  Indeed, I crashed (no pun intended) on Pat and Vickie’s sofa for 90 minutes until the traffic dissipated and then drove back to Williston Crossings.

I e-mailed Pat and Vickie to let them know we got into Jetty Park Campground and give them the dates.  We hope they will still be there for at least part of our stay but even if they have already moved on there is way more to do in the area than we can experience in one week.  I then e-mailed Ed Roelle and Bruce/Linda Whitney to update them on our travel plans.

With all of that accomplished I returned to working on our water system.  I use a sediment filter cartridge in the first housing, which I removed and replaced with the 5 micron cartridge I bought earlier at Walmart.  I then unscrewed the housing that is mounted inside the water bay.  I had to use my large slip pliers since the filter wrench could not be positioned properly to turn it far enough to loosen the housing.  The element that was in there was a specialized cartridge that I bought it in Quartzsite, Arizona this past winter.  It was more expensive than most and my recollection is that it contained some silver and had a very small micron rating.  We have a 0.5 micron drinking water filter that filters for five different things including cysts, lead, and VOCs, so a whole house carbon wrapped filter on the water input to the coach fresh water tank should be more than adequate.

We went for a walk and stopped at the activity building.  We were expecting a package from Amazon tomorrow but Pat, one of the resort managers, flagged us down to let us know it arrived today.  We picked it up from the office and carried it back to the coach.  It was 15 pounds of the Science Diet Sensitive Skin and Stomach cat food, which we could not find locally.

For dinner Linda made sautéed kale with garlic and turmeric and vegan quesadillas with Daiya cheddar cheese.  Red grapes rounded out the meal, which was simple but delicious.  We went for another walk after dinner and then settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV shows.  All of the shows were repeats that did not require our full attention, so Linda worked on puzzles and I worked on this post.

2016/01/27 (W) Rained In

The rain started around 2 this morning and intensified through the 4 AM hour before tapering off and ending, temporarily, around 7 AM.  We awoke at 7:45 AM and realized it was Wednesday.  The weekly coffee at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) is Wednesday at 8 AM so we got dressed quickly, grabbed our complimentary coupon, and walked over.  As with the last time we went, the place was packed with no seats available as the “regulars” had all arrived at 7:30 AM.  They were out of regular coffee so we both filled our travel mugs with what was left of the decaf.  We decided not to stay for the announcements and door prize drawings and walked back to our coach.

The weather forecast was for the rain to resume late morning and continue until dinner time tomorrow so Linda decided to get a long walk in before the rain returned.  While she was out I used my computer to upload two more blog posts.  My goal is to get 5 to 7 of them uploaded each day, but after doing two I tired of the task.  I don’t feel sick, but I am still coughing stuff up occasionally and I feel a little tired, which I attribute to fighting off whatever ailment I have developed.  Jasper, our 11 year old male mackerel tabby cat, started sneezing yesterday and the sneezing became more frequent today.  He is eating and drinking, and does otherwise appear to be out of sorts, but we will have to keep an eye on him.

Mid-morning I phoned Teeko’s Coffee and Teas back home and ordered eight (8) pounds of custom roasted coffee beans, two pounds each of four different things, to be vacuum packed in 1/2 pound bags.  I ordered Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, both regular and decaffeinated, Seattle Blend (caffeinated), and Sweet Dreams, a decaffeinated blend.  When I grind the beans just before making our coffee I mix the Yirgacheffe beans 50/50 or I mix the Seattle Blend and Sweet Dreams 50/50 to make Sweet Seattle Dreams.  The Yirgacheffe is a single bean coffee, smooth and pure, whereas the Sweet Seattle Dreams is a blend of many beans and is slightly more complex in flavor.  We like both so I usually alternate between them from day to day.

We left home the day after Thanksgiving Day with eight pounds of the same assortment of beans.  At our current rate of consumption of one pound every 10 days our current supply of beans should get us to mid-February, approximately 80 days from when we left to head south for the winter.  The new beans will be shipped USPS and should be here in 7 to 10 days.

That was the last thing I did of any note for the rest of the day.  We were socked in by the weather since we chose not to walk in the rain.  Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and I took a nap.  I eventually got up and played games on my iPad while she took a nap.  I laid down a second time and flipped through the various local OTA TV news and weather stations but did not fall asleep.  Rainy days are good for that, especially when there isn’t anything else I feel like doing.  Eventually Linda made dinner which was a bit of work.  She made mujadara, a brown lentil and basmati rice dish with cumin, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon, topped with caramelized onions.  It was very good.

After dinner we watched the PBS Newshour, which is providing reasonably intelligent coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign and the upcoming Iowa Caucuses.  We then watched our usual Wednesday evening PBS nature and science programs.  Linda went to bed at 10 PM but I stayed up until midnight to watch Charlie Rose, which I consider to be one of the most intelligent shows on television.  I went to bed to the pitter-patter sound of rain lightly falling on the roof of our coach and drifted off to sleep.

2016/01/28 (R) Bloody Nose

The rain continued overnight into this morning and intensified between 4 and 6 AM.  I was awake off and on starting at 3 but awake to stay by 7.  We both got up at 7:30.

Jasper, our make cat, started sneezing occasionally a couple of days ago and was sneezing more frequently yesterday and into the evening.  We awoke this morning to find blood spattered on the living room floor and a couple of spots on the captain’s chair nearest to the desk.  It appeared that Jasper was probably sleeping in that chair when he had to sneeze.  We were able to clean all of the blood off of the tile and get the spots out of the chair fabric.

Before I could make our morning coffee I had to open the last four vacuum-packed bags of coffee beans and transfer them to the airtight stainless steel storage canisters.  While I did that, and then ground the beans and prepared the brewer, Linda researched sneezing and bloody noses in cats.  (She is our Google queen.)  Based on what she found, he almost certainly has an upper respiratory infection, but beyond that it’s hard to say.  He is eating and drinking, which is good, and his behavior has not changed as far as we can tell, which is also good. (He’s an 11 year old cat and normally sleeps more than he is awake.)

The rain quit by 8 AM but it was solidly overcast.  The chance of precipitation through lunch time was only 15% but jumped back up to 30% at 1 PM.  Juniper, our 7-1/2 year old female cat, seems to be just fine and climbed up in Linda’s lap where she likes to be whenever possible.  While we drank our coffee Linda used her iPad to check in on the world and play a few games, while I used mine to finish up yesterday’s blog post and start on today’s post.

I decided to call the veterinarian’s office at 9 AM and see if we needed to bring Jasper in.  They said we probably should and scheduled an appointment for 12:30 PM.

We had granola for breakfast and then got dressed.  I settled in at the desk and worked on blog posts for the rest of the morning.  The rain was forecast to continue through the day and into the evening before finally clearing out of the area by midnight.  There was a bit of a lull during the morning, during which Linda walked over to the dumpster with our small daily bag of kitchen trash and then got in a long walk before returning to our coach.  Once she got back Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project.

We put Jasper in his carrier at 12:15 PM and drove the short distance to Desoto Veterinary Services where Dr. McNulty checked him over.  His lungs were clear and his heart was strong and normal, but his temperature was elevated slightly.  Doc gave him a shot of a multi-acting antibiotic and antibacterial nasal drops.  The drops were actually ophthalmological, but he pointed out that anything designed to work in the eyes will also work in the nasal/sinus area as that is where fluids from the eyes end up via the drainage tubes.

As long as Jasper was there Dr. McNulty scarped some tartar off of his teeth.  I had never seen this done on a cat that had not been anesthetized but Jasper tolerated it quite well.  Linda said she had seen our vet back home, Dr. Carron, do this before.  In addition to the bill for today’s services we purchased six more doses of Cheristin flea medication.  That will cover both cats for February, March, and April until we get home.  We will switch them back to Revolution as we still have quite a supply of it and it also protects against heartworm.

Before returning to the RV resort we drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off our plastic recyclables.  By the time we got back to the coach it was starting to rain again.  Jasper was glad to be back in the coach and out of his carrier and we glad to be snug in our home-on-wheels and out of the rain.

We had a bite of lunch and I resumed editing blog posts but was struggling to maintain my concentration and interest, so I took a nap.  When I got up I checked e-mail and had a reply from Pat and Vickie Lintner.  They will be at Jetty Park Beach and Campground at least through the end of March so we will get to hang out with them while we are there.

Late afternoon I had a call from Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint.  We chat occasionally but this call was promoted by a visit to our website where she noticed that my latest blog post was from early October 2015.  She was wondering if I had stopped blogging or if we had, perhaps, stopped traveling.  The answers were ‘no’ and ‘no’, of course, but that was just an opening to a conversation, not the end of one.

For dinner Linda made tortilla wraps with BBQ pan-seared tofu and caramelized onion and served a side of corn and edamame.  I really like this way of preparing tofu but it is messy.  I have come to the conclusion that my favorite way to have it is wrapped in a soft, warm tortilla.  It’s tasty, and helps contain the mess.

After dinner we tuned in the PBS Newshour for our daily dose of presidential campaign nonsense and analysis.  We then watched our usual Thursday night CBS TV programs for a brief escape from the bizarre reality of American politics.

Ed & Betty’s place at Gold Tree MH community in Bradenton, Florida with our car in the driveway.

Ed & Betty’s place at Gold Tree MH community in Bradenton, Florida with our car in the driveway.

The rainfall over southwest Florida in the 48 hours from late Tuesday evening through late this evening has been epic, and the rainfall totals for the month of January have been historic.  Some places closer to the Gulf Coast to our west, southwest, and south received almost 13 inches of rain and most locations received 5 to 10 times their normal rainfall for the entire month.  Fortunately Arcadia, in general, and Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, in particular, seem to drain well and we did not have any issues with flooding.  Our coach continues to have leaks, however, and while that is frustrating enough by itself, they seem to appear in new places and not reappear in previous locations.

This time around the carpet runners on the entry stairs were soaking wet.  Besides the leak around the new, and newly installed, passenger side lower windshield, it appears that water has gotten under the new landing platform as the passenger side rear lower corner is water stained and wet.  My guess is that water ran down into the stepwell from there but how it got there in the first place is a mystery.  Given the problems I discovered with water under the pilot and navigator seats, my guess is that water somehow got to the landing from there, but that only begs the question of where the water gained entry and how it got that far in the first place.

2016/01/29 (N) Ed and Betty

Jasper had a difficult night, sneezing often and usually multiple times when he did.  As a result I did not get the best night’s sleep.  The weather cleared out overnight and in spite of Jasper’s difficulties I did get some rest.  I woke around 7 AM to a beautiful sunrise lighting scattered clouds to the southwest.  We had coffee, toast, and juice for breakfast, showered, and got dressed.

We pulled out of our site at 10 AM and stopped at the Resort dumpster on our way out.  We left the Resort about 10:10 and headed west on FL-70 towards Bradenton.  We stopped at the Publix supermarket in Lakewood Ranch, just east of I-75, and Linda bought flowers.  We arrived at Ed and Betty Burns’ home, just east of I-75 and south of Fl-70, around 11:15 AM.

It was great to finally see Ed and Betty again.  Since the last time we saw them they have sold their motorhome and bought a manufactured house (double wide) in a nice development in Bradenton, Florida.

For lunch Betty had baked a loaf of German Rye Bread and made a pot of vegan vegetable soup from a mix she found.  She also had grape tomatoes and orange segments.  It was an excellent lunch of good food shared with good friends and we very much appreciated her accommodating the way we eat.

After lunch we went for a walk around their gated community and I took a few pictures along the way.  We stopped at the clubhouse and pool to check it out.  Like the rest of the park they were large, excellent facilities.  Back at their house we sat outside chatting and enjoyed some hot tea.  It eventually cooled off to where we started to get cold and went inside to continue talking.  Rather than go out for dinner we decided to have dinner at Ed and Betty’s.  That led Linda and Betty to drive to the Publix supermarket about a half mile from their house to gather ingredients while Ed and I stayed home a opened a couple of bottles of wine.  We chatted into the late afternoon enjoying wine and tortilla chips with peach salsa.

Linda and Betty started preparing our evening meal at 5 PM.  We had a nice salad that included non-dairy Daiya mozzarella style “cheese.”  Slices from an Italian baguette with non-dairy spread accompanied the main dish of angel hair pasta with a slightly sweet Ragu pasta sauce.  We waited a while and then had dessert of Marie Callander’s Peach Cobbler served hot with  Almond Dream non-dairy ice cream on the side.  Once again it was a wonderful meal and we were stuffed.

We finally left at 8:30 PM and drove back to Arcadia.  We stopped to check our mailbox and were back in our coach by 9:45 PM.  An episode of Endeavour had started at 9:30 PM and we picked it up in progress.  When the episode was over at 11 PM Linda headed to bed and I tuned in Charlie Rose.

2016/01/30 (S) Blog Swimming

The temperature dropped back into the 50s last night so we had good sleeping conditions and the coach was only slightly chilly when we woke up this morning.  I ran the heating system just long enough to bring the temperature inside up to 70 degrees F and chase away the chill.  We had a beautiful day on tap with high, scattered clouds, sunshine, light winds, and temperatures climbing into the 70s.  This is why people come to Florida in the winter.

After coffee and a light breakfast of grapefruit and toast, Linda went for a walk and I settled in to work on blog posts.  She ended up at Walmart looking at swimming suits for me and called me to see what my waist size was.  I did not know, and did not want to dig out a tape measure at the moment, so I told her I would go to the store later and find something.  The swimming pool here is heated and there is also a hot tub with a whirlpool feature.  Both of them are used regularly but we had not been in them yet as the weather has been too cool and/or too wet.  I thought it was still too cool today, but Linda was determined to get in the water.

When Linda returned from her walk I took the car and drove over as I wanted to top off the fuel tank while I was out.  I had measured my waist so I had a rough idea of what size swimming suit I needed.  Walmart only had one style that I liked so I bought one, along with a new pop-up nylon mesh laundry basket.  When I got back to our coach I tried the swimming suit on.  It was huge and needed to be returned.  I wanted this swimsuit crisis dealt with now.  Linda had bought something that she wanted to return so I took both items and their receipts back to the store.

It seems that there are often long lines at Walmart Customer Service counters, but that is just a matter of timing.  I did not have to wait very long and the returns were easily accomplished.  The problem with the swimming suits at Wally World is that there are gaps in the waist sizes.  They had the same style I had previously purchased but the next smaller size looked like it would be too small.  Given how much too large the supposedly correct size one was I decided to buy it.  I did not have much in the way of options at that point.

I tried it on when I got home and it seemed to fit OK.  At my urging Linda had already gone over to the pool.  I wore a shirt with my swimsuit, put on my Crocs, and walked over to join her.  I found her in the pool hanging on to a foam swim noodle and floating around with a smile on her face to match that of any kid.  We were both good swimmers when we were kids, but that was a long time ago.  I no longer regard water that is deeper than my shoulders as a friendly place.

The pool was cool on first contact but I could tell that the temperature would be OK after I had been in for a few minutes.  I eventually got all the way in and got my exercise by walking around in water up to my neck while moving my arms back and forth through the water.  All movements under water are done against considerable resistance and provide good exercise.  When I first got there the sun was still bright and warm but eventually thin clouds started to obscure it.

When we were done in the pool we moved to the hot tub, which was quite warm, and Linda turned on the whirlpool pump, which was quite invigorating.  When we were done in the hot tub Linda rinsed off in one of the showers to get the chlorinated water out of her hair.  I had not gotten my head wet, so I did not bother rinsing off.  I had the slight shell of chlorine about me the rest of the day and evening, but it was OK; kind of like a perfume for men.

I resumed uploading blog posts until dinnertime.  For dinner Linda prepared large salads with mock cold cut slices, garbanzo beans, fresh blueberries, grape tomatoes, and Daiya shredded non-dairy cheese.  She finished up the balsamic vinaigrette and dressed my salad with an Asian soy-ginger vinaigrette.  We had a couple slices each of the Italian baguette she bought yesterday and it made for a large, tasty, and satisfying meal.

After dinner we took our iPads and smartphones to the activity building and used the Resort Wi-Fi to download and install all of our app updates.  Linda also downloadable and installed the latest update to the iPad operating system (iOS 9.0.2 I think).  Once the updates were done we walked back to our coach and watched another episode of Endeavor, which tells the story of the beginning of Endeavor Morse’ career with the Oxford, England city police department and how he became Inspector Morse.  Like most BBC dramas, it is extremely well done.  We stayed up and watched an episode of “As Time Goes By”, a delightful British comedy starring Judy Dench.  There wasn’t much else on that interested us after that and we turned in earlier than usual.  I had the lights out before 11 PM.

2016/01/31 (N) Bus Article Photos

Today was another pleasant day, weather wise, with light winds and a high temperature in the mid-70s, but more cloud cover than yesterday.  Whatever I caught a few days ago is still with me and Jasper is still sneezing, so the boys on the bus are both still a little under the weather.

I met Dave Aungier at the Arcadia Rally 2016 and photographed his 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion.  Dave wrote an article about his bus for Bus Conversion Magazine (long hand) and had his friend Bonnie put it into MS Word.  She e-mailed the file to Dave and to me.  Other than breaks for lunch and to go for a walk with Linda, I spent most of the day reformatting the article in two columns, doing some minor editing, and then selecting, processing, and inserting photos into the article.  I did not finish the work by dinner time and figured I would finish it tomorrow.

Linda and Betty strolling down one of the interior roads at the Gold Tree MH community.

Linda and Betty strolling down one of the interior roads at the Gold Tree MH community.  Gold Tree is a clean, well-kept, and attractive gated manuactured housing community with nice amenities.

Our friend Mara was scheduled to be at Horizon Coach tomorrow for repairs on a slide out seal and then check into our RV Resort.  Her cat, Sabra, has been ill and she decided to push everything out by a day so she can take Sabra back to the veterinarian where she is staying near Ft. Lauderdale.

Lunch was roasted red pepper hummus with onion on the dark German rye bread that Betty Burns baked for us last Friday.  Double yum.  On our first joint walk of the day we found a small group of musicians playing at the gazebo to an equally small audience.  The Petanque (p’tunk) and shuffleboard courts were also in full use and there were folks in the swimming pool.  Petanque is a form of Bocce Ball that is favored by the Resort residents from Quebec.  Linda went swimming later in the afternoon.  We had baked potatoes for dinner topped with a sauté of onions, mushrooms, broccoli, and kale.  A dollop of Tofutti vegan sour cream added a bit of creaminess.  We went for another walk after dinner and stopped by the activity building.  The library was full of folks playing dominoes and other folks were gathering for the 7 PM karaoke session.

I was done working for the day and settled in with Linda to watch Downton Abbey and whatever else might be on TV this evening.

 

2016/01/21 (R) – 2016/01-25 (M) East and South

2016/01/21 (R) Lake Okeechobee

The weather forecast for today was for very nice conditions and we thought it would be a nice day to go for a ride in the car and explore the area of the state to our east, specifically Lake Okeechobee.  We were up a bit earlier than has been typical for us lately and did not make breakfast or coffee in favor of getting an early start.

The Defraggler disk defragmenter had finally completed its task.  I restarted my computer but it was not behaving correctly.  Besides the disk check and defrag I had also updated the NVIDIA graphics card driver, installed operating system updates, and updated Skype, which configured itself to auto-start on initial boot up.  I had to restart my machine again and suggested to Linda that we drive to the Shell station to top up the rank and then get coffee and bagels at the Dunkin Donuts next door.  I stopped back at our coach to check my e-mail and then shut my computer down.  I was looking for an e-mail from Herb, a member of the FMCA National Education Committee, about his visit to Lakeland, Florida today but he had not replied.  It was a long shot whether we would get to Lakeland today anyway.

We headed east on FL-70 as far as US-27 and then headed south towards Moore Haven and Clewiston.  Most of the drive was through the citrus groves, ranch lands, and fields of crops that make up most of this part of Florida.  The citrus groves eventually gave way to a tall plant with a wheat-like top that we did not recognize but thought might be wheat.  We passed a couple of fields that had been cleared and the organic matter mounded into burn piles.  When we saw large plumes of smoke later in our drive we assumed it was related to more land clearing.  Only later did Linda determine that the plants were sugar cane and the smoke was most likely from controlled burns of the cane fields which is the first step in harvesting the sugar cane.

We had not done a lot of research on Lake Okeechobee and the surrounding area.  What we did know was that it is the largest fresh water lake in the U. S. contained entirely within the borders of a single state.  What we did not know until we saw it was that the entire lake is surrounded by the Herbert Hoover Dike, a massive levy some 50 feet high with flood control gates and canals leading from it.  Construction was begun late in Herbert Hoover’s presidency as a result of a hurricane that pushed an enormous amount of water out of the lake to the southeast and killed thousands of people.

The first place on our drive where we were near the lakeshore was in Moore Haven but as a consequence of the dike there are only a few places where you can actually see the lake.  From Moore Haven to Clewiston US-27 ran right along the levy and we could see nesting boxes on top of tall poles.  All of them had nests and most of them had large birds roosting on them.  I presumed they were probably Osprey or possibly Eagles.

The first place we stopped was a county campground at South Bay, a small community at the southwest tip of the lake.  We were able to drive over the levy to a boat launch area, but the western and southwestern portions of the lake have extensive marshes and we could not see open water even from the top of the levy.  We also drove through the campground, which impressed us as a nice place to spend a couple of weeks to a month, depending on what else there was to do in the area.

We continued around the south end of the lake to Belle Grade, picking up US-441 to Pahokee where we drove over the dike to a marina that was part of a state park with an RV campground.  Before us was the lake and, like looking at a Great Lake or an ocean, it was indeed an endless expanse of water to the horizon.  Okeechobee is a big lake.

From Pahokee we continued up US-441 through Canal Point and along the edge of the levy up to the town of Okeechobee.  This stretch of highway was lined with RV parks, most of them small and not very nice looking.  We weren’t counting but I estimated somewhere between 18 and 24 “parks,” one right after another.  Many of them were full of old, closely spaced, rigs that appeared to be in very poor condition that was matched by the run down, trashy appearance of the properties themselves.

There were a few parks that looked OK and one of them was a park that Linda had called to inquire about openings and rates.  We always check out websites, Google Maps, and Google Earth, but they don’t always reveal the true appearance of a place or surrounding area.  Now that we were seeing this area first hand we were glad (relieved?) that we did not book a spot here.  At the risk of appearing snobbish, the east side of Lake Okeechobee did not impress us as a place we would stay or even need to visit again.  That said, we understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and folks do the best they can.

Yes, we own a Prevost bus conversion, but we bought it very used and we do not think of ourselves as “those” kind of people; you know, snobbish towards those who own SOBs (some other brand).  But we are aware that we have a fairly negative reaction to places that are trashy.  Trashy and old are not the same thing; we have nothing against old.  We are old ourselves, and hope to get a lot older before our time is up.  Trashy suggests a lack of self-respect and a lack of respect for others.  We will take a pass on that.

By the time we reached the town of Okeechobee it was 2 PM and we were hungry.  Rather than continue on to Sebring we headed west on FL-70 where we found a Subway just before reaching the edge of town and stopped to have lunch.  After our meal we headed back to Arcadia 63 miles away on FL-70.  Along the way we saw more Osprey near the Kissimmee River and later on a group of Wood Storks and a few Sandhill Cranes along with the usual Egrets, Vultures, a Kingfisher, and other local birds.  Florida really is a great state for seeing birds.

Once we got back to our coach we relaxed for a while and then decided to go to the jam session at 7 PM.  The jam sessions here are different from what we have experienced other places.  We found out from talking to the attendees sitting around us that the four musicians (two guitars, bass guitar, and drums) are not from the park and are brought in (hired) for the jams.  People from the park took turns singing but no other musicians joined in during the hour we were there.  There were also a lot of people dancing, including singles and couples line dancing.  We left just before 8 PM and returned to our coach to watch our Thursday evening TV programs.

Another major storm was winding up across the south and taking aim on the mid-Atlantic and New England.  The worst effects of this storm were forecast to be ice and snow accumulations of 12″ to 36″ from northern Georgia north and east to the Canadian Maritimes.  As with the last few storms the impact on Florida was forecast to be strong storms associated a quickly moving cold front draped off of the low pressure system and extending far into the Gulf of Mexico.  Rain was expected in Arcadia starting around 4:30 AM.  Several bands were expected, with the strongest from late morning to early afternoon.  Behind the front would be strong winds and much cooler temperatures.  We left the awning style windows open an inch, closed the roof vents, and went to bed.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

Linda at the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/22 (F) Desoto Veterinary Clinic

Heavy rain moved through our location starting at 4:30 AM, exactly when the weather forecasts said it would.  It arrived along with some wind and woke me up but it was not severe and I eventually fell back asleep.  The cats had their usual morning crazies starting around 5:30 AM so that woke me up again, and probably woke Linda up too, but they eventually calmed down and we all went back to sleep.

We finally got up at 8:15 AM and Linda got dressed right away.  It was cool enough that I put on my sweats but not cold enough to run the toe-kick heaters or the hydronic heating system.  I made our morning coffee and we had Linda’s yummy homemade granola with fresh blueberries for breakfast.  I got dressed after breakfast and at 9:45 AM we put Jasper in his carrier and drove to the Desoto Veterinary Clinic for his 10 AM appointment.  There was a lull in the rain with the heaviest, potentially severe, weather expected between late morning and early afternoon so we got to the clinic and back without getting rained on.

We only had to wait a few minutes while Dr. McNulty finished up with another patient.  Jasper rarely goes in his carrier at the house or on the bus, even though we leave it out and accessible, but tends to stay in it at the vet’s office.  Dr. McNulty was a bit of an eccentric character but we liked him.  He spent as much time talking to Jasper as he did to us and checked him over to make sure he did not have other undetected health issues.  His diagnosis of Jasper’s fur loss was that he had been bitten by a flea.  He recommended a small corticosteroid injection to help relieve the itching and reduce Jasper’s need to scratch.  He also suggested that we discontinue the use of the Revolution medication while we are in Florida and switch both cats to Cheristin.  We agreed to all of his recommendations.

Unlike Revolution, which also prevents heartworm, Cheristin is a flea medication only.  Even though Florida is the flea and mosquito capitol of the U. S. Dr. McNulty said that heartworm, acquired from infected mosquitos, is extremely rare here while cats being affected by fleas is quite common.  His concern with Revolution is that the fleas have become resistant to it.  He quit prescribing Frontline and Advantage years ago and has now stopped prescribing Revolution for the same reason.  Jasper and Juniper are strictly inside cats so their exposure to mosquitos, fleas, and ticks is minimal as those critters can only gain entry to the coach via the front door when it’s open or hitch a ride in with one of us.  Still, they do not live in a hermetically sealed environment.

The rains resumed around 11 AM.  Linda complied a grocery list while I worked at my computer on some e-mails and did a little additional work on photos for my featured bus article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  We had hummus and onion sandwiches for lunch around 12:30.  Linda waited for the rain to subside and finally headed to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket around 1:15 PM.

I had not worked on blog posts yesterday so I finished up the one from the 20th and worked on the ones for yesterday and today.  When Linda got back I helped get the groceries up into the coach.  I off-loaded the photos I took yesterday but was tired and did not feel like getting deeply into any computer-based work.  I laid down on the sofa instead and took a nap.  I like naps; naps are good.  While I was napping Linda went for a long walk.  I finally woke up as she was starting to prepare dinner.  The preparations were going to take a while so I went for a walk.

Dinner was butternut squash burritos and Mexican rice and was very tasty.  After dinner Linda applied the Cheristin to both cats.

PBS had back-to-back episodes of Endeavour, the series detailing the beginning of the career of the Inspector Morse character.  Linda slept through most of the second episode and went to bed as soon as it was over.  I stayed up and watched a show about the Neon Sign Museum in Las Vegas and two companies that are each restoring a sign for the museum.  I watched the weather for a few minutes and then went to bed.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

An Anhinga dries its wings along the shore of Lake Okeechobee, FL.

2016/01/23 (S) Pelican Lake

It was a wild day today, wind wise.  Sustained winds of 25 to 35 MPH, with gusts 10 to 15 MPH higher than that, swept across southwest Florida behind the cold front that brought yesterday’s rain.  And it was a cold air mass, with temperatures this morning in the low 40’s F.  After getting up and putting on our sweats, which is what we do on chilly mornings, I made a pot of coffee, which is what I do almost every morning.  Linda decided it was a good morning for pancakes.  Vegan baking can be a bit tricky, but they turned out really well.

We did not have any plans for today.  We had thought about attending the Fort Myers RV Show, at the Lee County Expo Center on FL-31, but decided there would not be anything new to see after having been to the Tampa RV Supershow the previous weekend.

After breakfast I called Chuck to catch up on things generally, discuss leaky windshields in particular, and see if we could arrange a time to visit.  While we were talking a gust of wind opened our patio awning about 12″ and then let it slam shut.  I realized immediately that I had not latched the roller tube at either end when we retracted it a few days ago in advance of the latest round of storms.  I told Chuck I would call him right back and went outside to latch the tubes.  We always latch the roller tube when stowing it prior to moving the coach so I found it to be an interesting oversight on our part that we had not done this when stowing it while stationary.  We were lucky that we were home when this happened and that I was seated where I could see exactly what had happened and quickly figure out why.  You can be sure we will latch the roller tube from now on whenever it is retracted.

With yet another problem diagnosed and fixed I called Chuck back.  As it turned out there was also an RV show taking place at their motorcoach resort this weekend; mostly new and used Prevost conversions from Millennium, Marathon, Liberty, and Featherlight, with a few others and some high end motorhomes thrown in for good measure.  The show was open until 4 PM and Chuck was doing volunteer shuttle service with his golf cart from 2 – 4 PM.  It was a nice day, except for the wind, and we decided to drive down for a visit, look at some of the coaches, and then go out to dinner.

We left around 11:30 AM and stopped at the Shell station to top up the fuel tank.  We then headed down FL-31 to its terminus at FL-80 and headed west for a few miles where we picked up I-75 southbound.  We exited I-75 at exit 101 and drove another nine miles on Collier Blvd, finally crossing Tamiami Trail (US-41) before arriving at Pelican Lake Luxury Motorcoach Resort.  While we were stopped at the light at Tamiami Trail Linda called Chuck as requested.  When we got to the resort entrance he and Barbara were waiting for us in their golf cart.  Rather than parking with the other RV show attendees they led us back to their site and let us park there.  By the time we got to their site it was approaching 1:30 PM.  They gave us a tour and we sat outside in the sun chatting, their extensive landscaping sheltering us from most of the wind, which had blown us around on the drive down and was still blowing strongly.

At 2 PM Barbara took their car and headed to the grocery store and Chuck drove us to the coach display area in his golf cart.  While he performed his volunteer service we looked at all of the Prevost conversions but did not bother with the motorhomes other than the Newells.  The only coach we saw that would have tempted us to trade in our Royale Coach was a Featherlight that was done in walnut laminate (not real wood) with light wall and ceiling treatments and no mirrors on the ceiling.  It had a light, clean, modern feeling that appealed to us.  Being new, it was in better condition than ours and had a much newer technology Volvo 4-cycle engine.  It was also way out our price range, even if they gave us what we had invested in our coach in trade-in value.  New Prevost conversions are very expensive toys.

We did pay attention, however, to the induction cooktops that most of the coaches had and took pictures of the name plates for future reference.  Replacing our Gaggenau halogen cooktop with an induction unit is high on our list of future upgrades.  Ideally it will be a 120 VAC unit so we can use it on a 120 VAC / 30 Amp electrical service.  At least now we have some things to check out.

A few minutes before 4 PM we walked back to Chuck and Barbara’s site.  I paused long the way to take a few pictures as the resort really is visually stunning.  We sat at their patio table and enjoyed the setting in the late afternoon sun.  Chuck eventually called me on my cell phone to let me know he was done with his volunteer service and find out where we were so he could drive us back.  He was surprised we had walked, but then we are always amazed that people use their golf carts for short trips.

When Chuck returned we went inside to chat and he opened a bottle of Santos Sparkling Moscato (white).  Wow, that was a nice cocktail wine!  The buy it at Costco so that may finally be the reason we need to join.  Barbara returned with the groceries and after putting them away we had a second glass of wine.  After some research and discussion we determined that The Loving Hut restaurant, on the north side of downtown Naples, was, in fact, still open for business and was acceptable to all four of us.  The restaurant is just off of Tamiami Trail, so easy enough to find, but traffic in the Naples area is heavy all the time and it took a while to get there.  Once we arrived we settled in for a long meal with good conversation.

There are three things we like about The Loving Hut restaurants, not in any particular order.  For one, the menu is essentially Chinese and SE Asian cuisine.  Second, the menu is extensive with page after page of dishes to choose from.  Third, the entire menu is vegan; we can, literally, pick dishes at random and know that we can eat them and that we will like them.  As a bonus, they also have a nice assortment of European style vegan desserts.  It’s a chain, and we really wish we had one of these near our house, but it’s probably just as well that we do not.

We drove separate cars to the restaurant since it was in the direction we needed to go and neither of us had a car that would seat more than two people.  We said “farewell until next time” in the parking lot at 8:15 PM and headed our separate ways.  We only had a few miles to travel to the east to get back to I-75.  From there we retraced our route and finally arrived back at our coach around 9:40 PM.

We had left the windows cracked so it did not too hot inside for the cats but by the time we returned it was 66 degrees inside.  Not freezing cold, to be sure, but just chilly enough to warrant the application of heat for a while.  We changed into our sweats and watched some old British comedy programs on PBS/Create as there was nothing else on that looked interesting and I was too tired to start working on anything, including this post (which I deferred until Sunday).  I shut off the hydronic heating system and the electric toe-kick heaters, and turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed, before turning in for the night.  Juniper (our female cat) very quickly got under the covers between us and spent the rest of the night there.  Jasper (our male cat) alternated between our pillows and the foot of the bed but never got under the covers.  Juniper likes the warmth and security but I think it’s too hot for Jasper and makes him feel trapped.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

Barb and Chuck’s site and coach at Pelican Lake, Naples, FL.

2016/01/24 (N) Snowmagedon Exchange Rate

We woke to an outside air temperature of 38 degrees F, our coldest morning yet since we arrived in Florida, but we were not complaining.  We closed all of the windows before going to bed last night and the temperature only dropped to 59 degrees F in the coach, which is actually a nice temperature for sleeping.  We put on our sweats and turned on the three thermostats that control the zone pumps and fan-coil heat exchangers for the Aqua-Hot hydronic heating system, along with the front electric toe-kick heater.  The Aqua-Hot diesel burner was still “on” from yesterday when we showered but the electric heating element kept it from running so I turned the element off.

The strong, sustained winds yesterday had caused no more damage than a temporary power outage while we away from the coach, for which our house battery/inverter system took over as it is supposed to do.  Our weather related problems were few by comparison to what others’ experienced.  Just 200 miles north of us it was 28 degrees F in Williston and colder still Nashville, Tennessee with a low in the mid-teens.  Temperatures back home where around 20 degrees F, but that’s typical for SE Michigan this time of year, perhaps even a bit on the warm side of normal.

By far the worst weather, however, was the major snow/ice/wind storm that affected a large area from NW Mississippi up to Ohio and east across Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to the eastern seaboard from Georgia, through the Carolinas, Washington D. C., Philadelphia, New York City, and on into New England.  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just west of Hershey and Annville, where Ron and Mary live, got 28″ of snow, and a small town in West Virginia got 40.5″, while places along the coast experienced significant flooding.  Thousands of flights were cancelled and transportation in D. C. and New York was at a standstill.  All things considered we felt like Arcadia was a really good choice for our winter base this year.

Linda checked in with Ron and Mary and they reported 30″ of snow at their house which they were in the process of clearing from their driveway.  Linda also checked in with Meghan, who reported no serious weather back home.  More importantly their male cat, Inches, had finished his round of medication and was doing much better.

Having visited Pelican Lake yesterday we were thinking about where we might go when we leave Big Tree RV Resort at the end of the first week in March.  Our thoughts drifted back to the conversation we had at the Tampa RV Supershow with the representatives from Florida Grande Motorcoach Resort.  Like Pelican Lake, Florida Grande is an ownership park.  It’s located near Webster, Florida about 100 miles north of Arcadia and a similar distance southeast of Williston.  The prices for lots there are more in our price range than Pelican Lake but we are a long way from buying an RV site anywhere.

Linda checked the website and saw that Florida Grande was offering a 2-for-1 special at the moment; pay for one week at the regular price (~$267) and get a second week free.  It also appeared that they had openings for the second and third week of March.  We were thinking of stopping there for a few days to check it out on our way to the FMCA national rally the third week of March in Perry, Georgia.  We have been reconsidering our attendance at that rally, however, as we really do not want to be that far north that early in March.  The 2-for-1 deal now has us thinking that Florida Grande might be a good place to spend the second and third weeks of March and then try to get into Jetty Park at Cape Canaveral for the last week of the month.

Linda took over the desk to work on some things for the bakery so I spent the late morning writing my blog post for yesterday and starting today’s post.  The high temperature today only reached 59 degrees but that was plenty warm enough to dump the holding tanks and refill the fresh water tank, which are on the sunny, southeast facing side of the coach.  Before I even got started, however, I ended up in a conversation with Dave whose 5th wheel trailer is across the street from us.  He and Barb are from New Hampshire and this is their 8th season at Big Tree RV Resort.

Dave said that the resort residents used to be about 60% from Quebec Province but the number has dropped to about 30% in recent years.  Most people “age out” of this lifestyle, whether mobile or stationary, due to declining health, strain on their financial resources, or loss of interest.  In the case of the folks from Quebec (and Ontario) the exchange rate to the U. S. dollar, which is currently 60%, is making it prohibitively expense for them to come south of the border for the winter.  When they exchange $1,000 CA they get $600 US.  That makes it really tough to come here and is one of the reasons our friends, Bill and Karen Gerrie, did not return to Florida, or anywhere else in the U. S., this winter.

All of the park models and permanent trailers here at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort are owned by individuals, not the park, so beyond the nice climate and social connections the owners have a real monetary investment here.  Dave said that 17 to 24 units are typically for sale each year but so far people are buying them.  The largest contingent in the park now appears to be Michiganders (aka Michiganians). One of the couples we were talking to at the jam session on Thursday was from Jackson, Michigan and told me that in recent years they have been getting 75 attendees at the Michigan dinner, and that is probably not everyone in the park who calls Michigan home.

While I was out talking to Dave and tending to our tanks I took a closer look at our new windshield and discovered that the caulk the Safelite installers used was coming loose from everything, i.e., it was not adhering to the glass, the rubber gasket, or the body.  Chuck has had the same issue with his two windshields and has a “claim” in progress with Safelite.  He had e-mailed me all of his correspondence with the company so I e-mailed him back to let him know what I had just found.

When I tested the water coming out of the softener after filling the tank it indicated somewhere between 7 and 15 grains per gallon.  When I tested the water coming out of the park supply faucet on our arrival I estimated the hardness at 11 gpg.  If that was accurate, the water had not changed, and today’s test was accurate, it meant our 8,000 to 10,000 grain water softener was exhausted in less than 5,000 grains by my calculations.  That did not seem reasonable to me so I plan to retest the water and the output of the softener, but today’s reading suggested that the water might be harder than I thought and that the softener was exhausted and needed to be recharged.

My main focus today, however, was laundry.  For Linda’s part she wanted to clean the inside of the coach, take care of something for our FMCA GLCC chapter, and then work on something for the bakery.  I decided to take my laptop computer to the laundry room and try to download Windows 10.  It’s a 3 GB download so there was no way we were going to do this using our Verizon data plan.  I did not know, however, if the resort Wi-Fi system would allow me to download that much data or have a fast enough data rate to complete the download in a reasonable amount of time.  What I discovered was that the public Wi-Fi only downloaded 2.65 MB in 45 minutes and ultimately disconnected me from the Internet.  I turned off the Wi-Fi radio in my computer and looked to see if there was some way to cancel the download.  Unfortunately I did not find one.  Not good.  Shame on you, Microsoft (once again).  Stuff like that is an advertisement for Linux.

Linda put the NFL AFC championship game on our living room TV and Ron, on our driver side, set up one on a table under his patio awning, so I got to listen to the game in surround sound.  Yippee.  I was going to take a nap (in the bedroom) but decided to stay up and continue working on today’s blog post, which was getting quite lengthy.

Around 4 PM we had sourdough pretzel nibblers and hummus for lunch.  It’s going to be another week before Gary can have Stacy proofread the three articles I have in the queue for Bus Conversion Magazine so I decided so spend the later part of the afternoon editing my blog posts for October 2015 and get them ready to upload.  I only got a few of them done and decided to take a nap after all.  I was not feeling well, which made it hard to concentrate and made this work an unpleasant chore rather than something I enjoyed doing.

I napped for a couple of hours, which I really needed, but I still did not feel right when I got up.  The late afternoon and early evening disappeared without accomplishing much of anything and we finally had granola for dinner around 8 PM.  We watched Downton Abbey from 9 to 10 PM on PBS and then watched the first of six episodes of The X-Files on FOX once the NFL NFC championship game ended and the talking heads ran out of things to say afterwards.  In truth, they ran out of things to say before they ever got started.

We were in bed with the lights out by 11:45 PM.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and was toasty warm in spite of the dropping temperature outside and inside the coach.  Juniper (our female cat) immediately climbed under the covers between us with her head between our pillows and settled in for the night.

2016/01/25 (M) TV Dilemma

The forecasted low temperature for last night was 37 degrees F.  The low temperature usually occurs just before sunrise; around 7 AM this time of year in Arcadia.  We woke up around then and checked the current weather on our phones which reported the temperature as 40 degrees F.  The temperature inside our coach was 56, three degrees colder than I have seen so far this winter, so I suspected the outside temperature dropped down into the upper 30s overnight.

I was feeling a little “off” last evening and did not sleep well last night, but not for lack of warmth.  I set the heater pad on my side of the bed to 4 (out of 10) and I was comfortable enough that way.  I had taken a nap during the afternoon, so I wasn’t really tired at midnight, but mostly I was unable to find a comfortable position.  Juniper (our female cat) got under the covers between our heads as soon as we went to bed, so that constrained somewhat my ability to change positions, which I did almost constantly; at least that was my perception.

We got up and put on our sweats, which is our standard routine for cold mornings unless we are leaving early to go somewhere.  I turned the Aqua-Hot on, turned on the three zone controllers, and set the thermostats to 70 degrees.  I then made our morning coffee and checked my e-mail while it was brewing.  The FMCA National Education Committee meeting that was tentatively set for today or next Monday (February 1st) was being rescheduled for February 8th or 15th.  That was fine with me; I have other things to work on right now and I am not looking forward to our committee’s discussion of meaningless survey data.  It’s not that I enjoy bring a nay-sayer, but there’s a science (and art) to doing surveys and as best I can tell the survey was not distributed in a way that allows us to treat the responses as representative of the larger population of FMCA members.

While we were enjoying our first cup-a-Joe a crow landed on the power pole just north of our rig (two sites away except that there is only one more site north of us).  Juniper spied it right away and began chattering the way she does when she sees birds and gets excited.  The crow eventually left and was replaced by our resident Pileated Woodpecker.  The woodpecker was clinging to the side of the pole, rather than sitting on the wires, where the pole has been pecked away and reduced in diameter for a length of some 10 inches (estimated) all the way around.  Pileated Woodpeckers are large, magnificent birds and are always a treat to see.  It eventually left and was replaced by a smaller woodpecker or Flicker but I was not able to see it well enough to be sure which one it was.

We like something hot and substantial on a cold morning, and oatmeal is our go to choice, so that was what Linda made for breakfast.  We did not have plans to travel today so we stayed in our sweats for most of the morning.  I finished my blog post for yesterday, started on this one, and then settled in at my computer to edit posts for October 2015.

I took a break and tested the water from the tap and softener.  Both readings were once again between 7 and 15 gpg so the hardness of the tap water had not changed since my original test and the softener was definitely depleted.  I checked to see if the clear filter housings I bought at the Arcadia rally would fit the pre-filter.  They did, so I cleaned them and substituted one for the opaque housing.  I configured the pre-filter housing with the flow constrictor tube, added 26 ounces of table salt, and started the water flow, allowing the discharge to drain on the ground.

After a couple of hours most of the salt was still in the bottom of the housing and I could see the top of the flow diverter tube so I knew there was a problem and had a good idea what it was.  The tube was not sealed at the top allowing water to enter the filter housing and go right back out without being forced down through the salt and into the slots at the bottom of the flow diverter tube.  I added an O-ring under the bottom of the tube and a rubber flat washer at the top.  I recovered the washer from one of the old filter elements.

I added another 26 ounces of table salt to the housing and reassembled it.  When I turned on the water pressure it pushed about half of the salt into the softener even with the outlet valve closed.  This was probably the first time since I made the diverter tube that my regeneration system actually worked as intended and, because of the clear housing, the first time I was able to visually observe it.  Because so much salt got pushed into the softener I ran just a little more water and then shut it off to let the brine develop and exchange ions with the resin.

For dinner Linda made a couscous dish with grape tomatoes and other yummy ingredients.  I was still not feeling 100% right but this dish was light enough and tasty enough to be appetizing.

We had a TV dilemma this evening; X-Files vs. Supergirl.  After many years absence FOX brought back a 6-episode season of The X-Files.  Episode 1 was Sunday evening after the NFL NFC Championship game but episode 2 was this evening at 8 PM, placing it opposite Supergirl on CBS.  Episodes 3 through 6 will also air on Mondays at 8 PM.  Buggers.  Our other Monday evening shows were all repeats but we watched them anyway.

The low temperature for overnight was forecast to be 50 degrees F with no storms.  That meant we could leave the windows open and the furnace/heaters off and get a good night’s sleep.

 

2016/01/16 (S) – 2016/01/20 (W) A Capitol Experience

2016/01/16 (S) Fort Myers Beach Marilyn

I got up at 8:15 AM, cleaned the cats’ food bowls, fed them, and then made coffee.  I replied to an e-mail from BCM publisher Gary Hatt regarding which article he planned to run in March and which one in April.  I then downloaded my photos from the last two days from my camera to my computer.  Linda slept in and did not get up until 9:10.  We both felt like we have had too much less-than-ideal food to eat the last few days and split a grapefruit for breakfast.

Our plans for the day revolved around meeting Linda’s sister, Sr. Marilyn, at noon at the Diamond Head Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Myers Beach where she is attending an educational conference and taking CPE courses to maintain her counseling license.  The conference was being put on by her religious community, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondelet.  Marilyn told us the resort parking was outside but the entrance had a relatively low bar over it so I took the ham radio antenna off of our car before we left at 10 AM for the drive to Fort Myers Beach.

Two hours should have been plenty of time to get there but we finally discovered the downstate traffic congestion that many fellow RV/snowbirds have mentioned to us.  The trip down FL-31 south was an easy, pleasant drive through citrus groves and ranches.  It ended at FL-80 where we headed west towards Ft. Myers.  We had the GPS set for “shortest route” so it took us through town instead of putting us on I-75 but it was an interesting route and we got to see different parts of the city including downtown and McGreger Avenue, which is lined with large Royal Palms.  It was also the location of the adjacent Henry Ford and Thomas Edison estates.  In spite of the traffic we will probably venture back there at some point to see the estates.

Apparently everyone was headed to Ft. Myers Beach today as the last few miles to get onto the island took one hour.  It was the worst traffic I seen in years.  There is only one bridge connecting the north end of the island to the mainland and there are two lanes of traffic that funnel down into one.  The lanes have a divider between them and are controlled by separate stop lights.  We had never seen anything like it before.  Linda texted Marilyn with a revised ETA.

Marilyn and Linda at the Diamond Head Beach Resort & Spa, Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

Marilyn and Linda at the Diamond Head Beach Resort & Spa, Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

When we finally pulled into the parking lot of the hotel at 12:30 PM Marilyn was waiting for us.  We paid for parking ($10), parked the car, and went directly to Cabana’s, the hotel’s beachfront bar/restaurant.  Linda had a margarita and I had a frozen strawberry daiquiri.  What can I say?  I like fruit drinks.

For lunch Linda and I both had veggie burgers and Marilyn had the Portobello mushroom burger.  The veggie burgers were mushy, as they often are, but the French fries were coated with something before being fried, probably flour, and were excellent.  After we were done eating Linda and Marilyn walked out onto the beach where Linda took her shoes off and walked in the ocean.  Our $10 parking fee got us a voucher for the same amount which we applied to the lunch bill.

We spent the next 90 minutes strolling a portion of Estero Boulevard, the main/only street that runs the length of the island.  I took a few photographs and we wandered into a few shops but did not buy anything.  We also walked out on the pier where we got a close up look at two Pelicans and a great view of the very crowded beach to the north and south.  This place definitely had that upscale but slightly funky, seaside resort, winter getaway vibe that is one of the reasons people flock to such places.

The Beach at Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

The Beach at Ft. Myers Beach, FL.

We were back at the hotel at 3:30 PM.  Marilyn had something to do at 4 PM so we took our leave and got back into the bumper-to-bumper traffic that was now moving slowly towards the bridge and off the island.  But at least it was moving, and once we cleared the bridge traffic moved along much better.  I changed the GPS to “fastest route” and it took us over different roads to I-75 and then north five miles to FL-80 where we retraced our earlier route (in reverse) to get back to Arcadia.  At the intersection of FL-80 and FL-31 we stopped at a Publix supermarket and bought a couple of bottled drinks.

It had been a long day and I did not feel like working at my computer.  We tuned in a program on PBS at 8 PM and doodled on our iPads.  Linda was checking the weather and the forecast for overnight was starting to look ominous.  When the program ended at 9:30 we went outside to retract our awnings and put our folding chairs and table away.  We stowed the big patio awning last and it started to rain lightly as we completed that task.  We left the TV on and watched the weather situation closely.  I finally went to bed at midnight knowing that we would not got a full, restful night’s sleep.

2016/01/17 (N) Bad Weather

The cold front that swept across the Florida peninsula overnight was draped off of an intense low pressure system that moved from Texas along the Gulf coast shore into the Florida panhandle and eventually along the Florida/Georgia border and off into the Atlantic.  The front, combined with a low level jetstream, raced across the area at 50 to 60 miles per hour triggering numerous thunderstorms and spawning a few tornados.

We had followed the development of the system closely before going to bed at midnight as both channel 11 and 20 had continuous storm team coverage.  At 4:30 AM we received severe weather alerts on our phones.  Linda’s phone has a loud klaxon warning sound associated with these alerts and we were instantly wide awake.  We put on our sweats, so that we would at least be dressed in case we had to leave the rig, and turned on the TV.

Arcadia, including our Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, was in the northeast corner of a tornado warning box.  It had started raining, off and on, well before midnight but as the storm front moved into our area thunderstorms came with it, one with Doppler radar indicated rotation.  There was lightning and thunder, of course, and the rain became steady and very heavy.  The wind really picked up but never became tornadic.  We stayed up until 5:30 AM by which time the main storm front had passed.  There were a few lingering cells behind it but the meteorologists gave the “all clear” for our area and we went back to bed.

The temperature was in the upper 60’s when we got up at 8:30 AM, rose slightly to about 70, and then dropped throughout the day as the front that triggered the storms raced off into the Atlantic opening the door for much colder air to flow in behind it, courtesy of the Polar Vortex that was plunging most of the Eastern U. S. and Canada into a deep freeze.

The rest of the day was uneventful with pleasant weather.  My focus was selecting and processing photos from the recent Arcadia Rally 2016 for the bonus content section of the digital edition of the March 2016 issue of Bus Conversion Magazine.  Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and went for several walks.  I joined her for brief strolls after lunch and dinner.  For dinner Linda made vegan chili from scratch.  It was very good.  We watched Downton Abbey on PBS after which Linda went to bed while I continued to work on photos.

2016/01/18 (M) The Capitol Steps

The air mass behind the cold front that swept out of the Gulf of Mexico, across Florida, and out into the Atlantic Ocean yesterday was noticeably colder and drier than normal for southwest Florida.  The temperature overnight dropped to 47 degrees, so we slept well and woke to clear skies and crisp air.

Our day revolved around the 3 PM performance at the Venice Theater of the political comedy musical group The Capitol Steps.  Venice is over an hour’s drive from Arcadia so we arranged with Steve and Karen Limkemann to make a day of it that would include lunch, photography at the Venice Rookery, the show, and dinner.

We skipped breakfast, showered, and dressed up enough to be presentable for the theater.  We gathered up several layers of outerwear and I put the 100-300 mm zoom lens on the Sony a99v.  We left at 10 AM and stopped at the Shell station in Arcadia to top up the fuel tank. Dunkin Donuts was right next door so we each got coffee and a blueberry bagel to split.  I got a frozen coffee drink made with almond milk and mocha.  I had never had one of these from DD and it was pretty good.

I had the GPS set for fastest route.  It took us out FL-72 towards Myakka State Park, which I expected, but then took us south on County Road 769.  Along the way we saw the usual assortment of citrus groves, ranches, and birds but also saw a Bald Eagle.  CR-769 turned southwest and eventually intersected I-75 where we headed “north.”  Although it was another 25 miles to the Nokomis exit, I-75 ran mostly east-west for this stretch so this route actually made a lot of sense.  It was only a couple of miles from the exit to Steve and Karen’s place and there was a Publix supermarket along the way, so we stopped and bought them a bag of M&M’s to replace ones we had eaten on our last visit and were going to eat on this one.  Not vegan, but a small indulgence.

We got to Steve and Karen’s place at Bay Lake Estates at 11:30 AM.  At 11:45 we walked to Cafe Evergreen about 1.5 miles away, an easy walk on a sidewalk without having to cross any major streets.  Cafe Evergreen is a small, all organic, restaurant with a good selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes.  We both had salads for lunch and they were very good.  Everything we have had to eat here has been excellent and the service has always been on a par with the quality of the food.

We walked back to Steve and Karen’s and visited until we left at 2:15 PM to drive to the Venice Theatre.  Parking can be a problem in downtown Venice but Steve found a parking space on a side street near the theatre.  We have enjoyed The Capitol Steps every time we have seen them and this show was as good as any.  Laughter really is the best medicine.

Herons and Egrets at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

Herons and Egrets at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The show was done around 5 PM.  By the time we made our way to the restrooms and out of the theatre it was 5:15 PM.  Steve drove us to the Venice Rookery where we bundled up against the chilly air and Steve and I got out our cameras.  The sky was clear except for some thin clouds to the west and I took quite a few photos in the quickly changing light.  Sunset was just before 6 PM and we stayed until 6:30 to watch bats emerge from their purpose-built houses atop tall, slender poles.  We headed back to Cafe Evergreen where we had 7 PM dinner reservations.

Linda, Karen, and I drank lots of coffee, which was smooth and warm.  Linda and I had stir-fried kelp noodles with vegetables served over a bed of couscous with an Asian style sauce.  It was delicious and had a wonderful texture.  We each had a vegan indulgence for dessert; cranberry pecan for me and chocolate peanut butter for Linda.  It was a very satisfying meal.

We got back to Steve and Karen’s at 8:45 PM and decided to head for home.  We reversed our earlier route and were back at our coach before 10 PM.  We watched NCIS Los Angeles and went to bed, tired from a long, but very satisfying day.

2016/01/19 (T) VZW Data Usage

We left the windows open about inch yesterday, along with the kitchen ceiling vent (but no fan), so it would not get too warm inside from the sun while we were away.  It was cool inside when we got home at 10 PM and we closed up the coach in anticipation of the outside temperature overnight dropping into the low 40’s.  Last night was another cool one, literally.

Herons and Cranes at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

Herons and Cranes at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

There are only a few hot dishes that Linda makes for breakfast and most of them are a lot of work.  The one dish that is relatively easy is oatmeal, and it is a great choice for a cool/cold morning.  It stays warm long enough to eat it before it gets cold, is a hearty (and heart healthy) dish, and stays with you for quite a while.

Linda stopped at the resort office yesterday to see if they could cut the grass around our site while we were gone for the day.  The awnings were up and our chairs/table were still put away from the weekend storms, so the site was clear.  The office said they probably would not get to it on Monday as the ground and grass was too wet but when we finally left the coach today we saw that they had, in fact, mowed the area.

We have been on the go more than sitting still for the last week and needed some time at the coach to do things.  I needed to wrap up work on two articles for BCM and settled in today to do that.  Today (the 19th of the month) is also the end of our Verizon Wireless billing cycle.  We do not have park Wi-Fi at our site in Big Tree Carefree RV Resort and have been leaving our Verizon Mi-Fi on continuously.  We managed to use almost all of our 11 GB of data during the current billing cycle so I wanted to spend today working on photos for the articles and defer uploading them until tomorrow.

Before getting back into my BCM rally article I copied all of the photos that I took yesterday at the Venice Rookery from the camera to my computer.  Linda tries to create a new postcard for Madeline every Tuesday and wanted a picture from the Rookery.  My best photos were of individual birds or small groups but she wanted something that would give Madeline a better visual understanding of just what a rookery is.

 

I finally selected a photo with lots of different birds in lots of different positions, including some in flight.  Linda logged into the PhotoCardApp on her iPad and determined that the post cards the company creates and mails out are 8.25″ by 5.5″, which is a 3:2 aspect ratio.  That is also the native format of my Sony SLT-a99v.  Using Faststone Image Viewer (FIV) I was able to resize the image to the exact size of the postcard.  I then e-mailed it to Linda’s Gmail account which, in spite of our local area network in the bus, is the easy (only?) way to get it from my computer to her iPad.

While I was processing the image Linda looked up the term “rookery” and discovered that its meaning is more specific than we thought.  While it is, indeed, a place where birds roost and build nests (typically in trees) it is actually specific to rooks, which are a crow-like bird.  It has, however, become the generic term for a place where one or more species of bird roost, breed, nest, and raise their young.

Besides the main post card photo the PhotoCardApp allows you to create your own stamps.  Creating a stamp costs two credits but once it’s created you can use it over and over for just the cost of the postage.  (You get 30 credits for $25 and each card costs 2 credits to create, produce, and mail.)  We do not have a lot of photos of the two of us together as one of us (usually me) is typically behind the camera.  We have a nice head and shoulders photo that our son took that I use at the end of my BCM articles.  I e-mailed that to Linda and she used it to create a personalized stamp.  I found a second photo of us that someone took at the 2014 GLAMARAMA Rally so I processed it and e-mailed it to Linda to use for a second stamp if she wanted.  We are both wearing our bright yellow GLCC dress shirts, so it is very RV specific.

We tried Facetiming with Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline Sunday evening but the connection was too slow so we talked on the phone.  They were in Washington D. C. for a conference related to Shawna’s research and Madeline got to visit the Natural History Museum and see dinosaur skeletons.  The PhotoCardApp also has a large collection of “stickers” that can be added to a post card, so Linda added an electronic dinosaur “sticker” to the one she was working on.

A Great Blue Heron at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

A Great Blue Heron at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The last couple of days there was some confusion between BCM owner/publisher Gary Hatt, the layout person (Jorge Escobar, in Columbia), and myself regarding which article they were running in the March 2016 issue.  Gary cleared that up in favor of my article on the Arcadia Rally 2016.  That, in turn, allowed me to move ahead with finishing that article today, which I finally did around dinner time.  My only breaks were to eat lunch and go for short walks.

Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project but took time out to go on several longer walks, including one to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket.  She planned to make a bean soup for dinner and needed a few ingredients.  The soup was based on a package of mixed beans and lentils she bought at a health food store in Frankenmuth, Michigan back in October.  She added water, tomato sauce, garlic, onion, greens, chili powder, and turmeric.  By the time we sat down to dinner the sun had set and the temperature was dropping so the hot soup was not only delicious but really hit the spot.

We walked over to the mail room after dinner.  My new driver’s license had arrived.  The registrations and tabs for the bus and car arrived a few days ago so as of now we are not expecting any more mail.

Back at the coach I turned on the electric toe-kick heaters and plugged in the Broan portable cube heater rather than run the Aqua-Hot.  We put on our Tuesday evening TV programs but I was in a groove and turned my attention to selecting and processing photos to go with blog posts.  I got through my images for November and December and the first few days of January by 11 PM when the last show ended and Linda headed off to bed.

We still had 1.5 GB of data left in our current billing cycle, which ended at midnight, although I was not sure in what time zone.  I knew the data for my BCM Arcadia rally article was not more than 0.5 GB so I uploaded it before our data allocation reset.  It’s expensive to exceed our allocation but there is also a “cost” associated with not using what we have paid for.

I turned the thermostats on the toe-kick heaters back and turned off the Broan cube heater.  I turned on the electric heating pad on my side of the bed, set it to 4, and activated the pre-heat function.  I finally got to bed around 12:30 AM and snuggled in under the blankets.

2016/01/20 (W) Cellular Options

I don’t know if the outside temperature got into the upper 30’s last night but even with the coach closed up the temperature inside dropped to 59 degrees F.  Linda got up first this morning and turned up the thermostats on the electric toe-kick heaters.  I got up a few minutes later and turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and the three thermostats that control the zone pumps and fans on the heat exchangers in the house portion of the bus.

We had slept in a bit and were sitting around in our sweats while the coach warmed up when we realized at 7:55 that the Wednesday coffee was starting in five minutes.  We did not feel like going over in our sweats or changing clothes so I made coffee in our coach like I do almost every morning.  The problems (for us) with the Wednesday morning coffee, based on having been one time, is that there is no opportunity to socialize and it takes too long.  It was well attended the one time we went so it apparently serves the needs of the resort management and most of the residents.

Linda used her iPad2 to check in on the world and I used mine to finish up my blog posts for the last few days.  We eventually had granola with blueberries and bananas for breakfast, which is always a treat.  Linda walked our kitchen trash over to the dumpster and then continued walking the park for her first walk of the day.

My original objective for today was to upload image and document files for my Arcadia Rally 2016 article to my BCM Dropbox folder, but I got that done before I went to bed last night.  Although I have a lot work to do on several websites, including ours, I wanted to put the finishing touches on my featured bus article about Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion and move two technical articles from “proofreading” to “ready” status.  Gary has not had Kathy proofread/edit any of them yet so that had to wait for another day.  I also wanted to continue selecting/processing photos for my January blog posts but got distracted with system updates for my ASUS laptop computer.

I ran the CCleaner program and then ran the Windows 8.1 disk check utility.  I ran it because MS Outlook keeps “encountering a problem and has to close” or stops responding.  The check disk utility did not find any errors so I downloaded a new version of Defraggler and started it.  I probably should have run it overnight as it ran all day and through the evening.  I think I could have worked while it was running but I have always preferred to let disk defragmenters run without anything else tasking the system.

With my computer tied up and my blog post drafts up-to-date I had a little time on my hands.  Linda is always up for another walk so we walked over to the CellularSales store, an Authorized Verizon Retailer located on an out lot of the Walmart shopping center.  The shopping center is on the other side of Highway 70 so we used the crosswalk at the traffic signal for the shopping center entrance.  This stoplight also serves the entrance to the 55+ community immediately to the east of our RV resort and is where we make our U-turn when headed east to head back west to the entrance to our resort.

The reason for our visit was that we became eligible for device upgrades back in April and wanted to check out what was available in smartphones and data plans.  We were also looking for a new Mi-Fi device that Chris and Cherie (Technomadia) reported on in their Mobile Internet Aficionados (MIA) site.  We usually work with Verizon corporate stores but there isn’t one in Arcadia.  The store was large, spacious, very nice, and not busy so Toby was able to spend some relaxed time answering our questions.

The Mi-Fi device we wanted to see was the new Netgear AC791L but CellularSales did not have one and Toby was not familiar with it.  They did not even have the Novatel 6620L and were still selling the Novatel 5510L which is what we have now and want to replace.  We got our 5510L in June 2013 from a Verizon retailer in Gillette, Wyoming and our friends at the RV Mobile Internet Resource Center (MIA) consider it obsolete and no longer even report on it.

We also looked at new phones and learned that the Samsung Note 4 and Note 5, along with the Galaxy VI smartphone, do not have removable batteries.  Toby viewed that as a negative and we agreed.  The Galaxy V smartphone, which does have a removable battery, would still be an upgrade over our Galaxy III phones.  It has a larger screen but not as large as the Note devices, which are almost too large to hold up to your ear.  Toby also showed us the new LG phone which was very nice but again did not have a removable battery.  It’s the newest competitor to the Samsung Galaxy S VI.  We will do more research before deciding what, if anything, to do.  The AC791L, in particular, appears to be available online without a contract and at a better price than in a retail outlet.

As long as we were on the other side of the highway we stopped at Walmart and bought a loaf of Italian bread to go with our soup for dinner.  When we got back to our coach the disk defragmenter on my computer was still only part way through the disk and indicating the time remaining as “> 1 day.”  The temperature outside was near perfect, not too warm or cool, so Linda got out one of our chairs and sat outside reading while I stayed inside and took a nap.

I got up a couple of hours later and wiled away what was left of the afternoon.  We have been keeping an eye on our male cat, Jasper, who has lost little patches of fur from several spots on his back, and finally decided that we should get him in to see a vet.  The closest one is on FL-31 less than a mile from our RV resort and is the one that folks in the resort recommended.  Linda was looking for reviews online but could not find the clinic so she drove over in the car to get the name and phone number.  It turned out that she had found the veterinarian’s name but he used to work out of his house at a different location.  We plan to drive out towards Lake Okeechobee tomorrow but will call the veterinary clinic first and make an appointment for Friday.

The Venice Rookery at sunset, Venice, FL.

The Venice Rookery at sunset, Venice, FL.

As the sun sank in the western sky the temperature cooled off quickly and we closed up the coach.  Linda heated the rest of the soup she made yesterday and we sat down at 7 PM to a simple but delicious dinner of soup and bread.  We turned on the TV after dinner, watched Jeopardy, and then switched to PBS to watch the Wednesday night nature/science programs.

The last 10 days have been very busy and somewhat intense for us.  We had been to the woodcarvers expo in Punta Gorda, visited with Steve and Karen, met Ron and Mary at Myakka State Park, visited with them again at our RV resort, attended the Tampa RV Supershow in conjunction with strong weather, visited Marilyn in Fort Myers Beach, dealt with severe weather again, followed by a long day of working on photos for my BCM rally article, had a long day visiting Steve and Karen in Nokomis again and seeing The Capitol Steps at the Venice Theatre, eating at Cafe Evergreen twice and then visiting the Venice Rookery to take photographs before returning home, had finally had another really long day yesterday selecting/processing photos and placing them in my BCM article.  Looking back at all of that we were probably due for an easy, low activity day, and one of the nice things about retirement is that we can usually have “do nothing” days whenever we want.

When I checked my computer it was still showing 17 hours to complete the defragmentation so I went to bed.

 

2016/01/06 (W) -10 (N) Websites, Woodwork, and Wildlife

2016/01/06 (W) Filtered Article 

The temperature dropped into the mid-50s last night and made for excellent sleeping conditions.  Never-the-less, Linda was up at 6:30 AM and read quietly until I got up at 8 AM.  I used the last of the current batch of coffee beans yesterday so I opened four fresh bags this morning, a half-pound each of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (regular and decaffeinated), Seattle Blend (regular), and Sweet Dreams Blend (decaffeinated).  Teeko’s Coffee and Teas back home roasted and vacuum packed the beans for us in 1/2 pound amounts so they would stay fresh through the winter.  I made a full pot of the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe (half-caffe) and Linda prepared toast and grapefruit for breakfast.  One of the things we bought yesterday at Joshua Citrus was orange marmalade so Linda opened it and we had some on our toast.  It was not as bitter as most orange marmalades I have tried and I liked it.

Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, Punta Gorda, FL.

Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center, Punta Gorda, FL.

Tonight was the weekly Powerball lottery drawing and the amount was approaching 400 million dollars so we agreed that we should buy a few tickets.  Since there was a possibility of rain this afternoon Linda wanted to get her walk in early so she walked to the Winn-Dixie supermarket in search of lottery tickets.  The Winn- Dixie is in a shopping plaza with other stores on the same (south) side of US-70 as the Carefree Big Tree RV Resort about 1/2 mile west towards downtown.  There is a very wide sidewalk along the south side of US-70 that is used by walkers, bicyclists, and folks in golf carts, from our resort and the much larger adult community just to our east, to get to the shopping area just west of us.  The Walmart is immediately across the street, with a stop light and crosswalk, but golf carts cannot go there as far as we know.

I’ve needed to change the water filter under the kitchen sink for a while so today I finally did.  I installed the GX1S01R GE Drinking Water Filter housing in fall 2014 to replace the Everpure unit that gave me no end of difficulty whenever I tried to change the filter cartridge.  It turned out that neither of our two filter wrenches fit the housing and I had to get my large slip pliers out to get it off.  The inside of the housing was dirty so I boiled some water in the microwave, added a small amount of dish soap, cleaned it thoroughly, and rinsed it out.

The GE drinking water filter element is a Class I media (0.5 – 1.0 micron) that reduces or removes more things than most filters, including:  MTBE, VOCs, Chlorine (taste and odor), Lead, Cysts, Mercury, Turbidity, and Asbestos.  The capacity of the element is listed as 500 gallons* (*depending on water conditions) and the useful life is listed as 6 months.  The filter feeds a special drinking water faucet in the kitchen sink that is only used for cleaning food and cooking so I doubt that we run anywhere near 500 gallons of water through it in 6 months, or even in a year.  Given how we use our motorcoach, and the cost of the filter elements, I will probably change the filter once a year.  To that end I wrote the date on a piece of Frog Tape and attached it to the housing.

I continued to focus on my article for BCM about Ronnie and Diann Mewbourns’ 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  I thought I might get it done by lunch but I did not get back to work on it until after 11 AM.  I worked on it most of the rest of the day and into the evening and still did not get it finished.  By 9 PM I had the photos selected and processed but deferred integrating them into the article until tomorrow.  I will then upload it to our Dropbox and e-mail Diann that it is available for review.

Lunch was left over black-eyed peas, fresh fruit, and hummus with sourdough pretzels for dipping.  Dinner was salad and pan-seared tofu with caramelized onions in BBQ sauce with fresh strawberries for dessert.  We went for walks after both meals and Linda got in 10 miles today.

If we watch TV at all on Wednesday evening it is usually PBS and so it was tonight.  Nature was on cross-species animal bonding, Nova was on an archeological investigation of WWI trenches and tunnels, followed by a two hour program on the CERN LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and the search for the Higgs bozon particle and other, possibly more elementary ones.  It was after midnight by the time I got bed.

2016/01/07 (R) Jam Session

We were both awake around 7 AM.  Linda read for a while and got up around 7:45.  I drifted back to a light sleep and finally got up at 8:15.  By the time the coffee was ready to drink it was 8:45 AM.  Linda washed off some blueberries and poured our cups of Joe.

Linda bought 10 tickets yesterday for the Powerball lottery.  Our $20 investment returned $4.  The good news was that no one won and Saturday’s drawing will likely approach $700 million.  I know the odds of winning are astronomically small, but any non-zero chance to win even a piece of that pot seems worth another $20.  After all, you can’t win if you don’t play.

Linda by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

We had granola with fresh berries for breakfast.  I then e-mailed the Geeks on Tour to see if we could arrange a meetup.  That’s the name of Jim and Chris Guld’s business and they are currently just up the road at the Thousand Trails Preserve (RV park) in Zolfo Springs.  They are full-time RVers who do seminars and in-depth training classes on a wide range of technologies at RV rallies, parks, and other venues.  You can find them here:  http://www.geeksontour.com.  They also do a weekly podcast and have an extensive catalog of video tutorials.

I spent the morning and early afternoon finishing my BCM article on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  I uploaded it to a folder in our Dropbox for them e-mailed them the link and some instructions.  I also sent the link to BCM publisher Gary Hatt.

We had hummus with sourdough pretzel nibblers and fresh fruit for lunch around 1 PM.  Our plan for the afternoon was to go watch a practice session of the Royal Lipizzan Stallions.  The U.S.-based stallions’ facility is just up the road in Myakka City and they have practice sessions open to the public at 3 PM on Thursdays and Fridays, and 10 AM on Saturdays.  They ask (charge) a $5 donation per person.  The facility has bleachers but you can bring your own chair.  We had planned to go today because the forecast for this afternoon was pleasant.

We want to order some fresh citrus fruit from Joshua Citrus here in Arcadia and have it shipped to our children in Michigan.  It will be much more economical for us to have it shipped to one place and Meghan agreed to receive it and distribute it.  We were going to stop there on our way to see the Lipizzaners but at 1:15 PM it was still overcast.  I wanted to take photographs so we decided not to go and will visit the facility another time.

With the change in our plans we took a long walk around the resort.  I then had to figure out something else to do.  I was tired and decided to take a nap.  The sofa was not available as Linda was working on her counted cross-stitch project so I curled up on the bed next to Jasper (the cat) and dozed for a couple of hours.

For dinner Linda fixed a side of mixed grains, steamed some broccoli, and sautéed a package of Gardein Orange “Chicken.”  The orange chicken is a soy-based dish and it is very tasty.

After dinner we turned on the TV and I worked on the bonus content photographs for my article on the recent Arcadia converted bus rally.  Perhaps because of the distraction from the boob tube, was trying to clean up a slightly complicated situation I had created for myself, was just not in the humor, or some combination of the three, I found the work a bit tedious.  I stuck with it long enough to get it better organized and then stopped at a somewhat logical point and watched TV.

2016/01/08 (F) Touring Geeks

There was rain in the forecast for overnight and I heard the first few drops before I went to bed just before midnight.  The rains came in earnest sometime between 4 and 5 AM and it rained hard around 7 AM.  I was awake at that point and decided to get up and check for leaks.  Fortunately there was no sign of the leaks we had during the last rain event.  I fed the cats, plugged in the charger for our Verizon Mi-Fi, and made the coffee.

Bruce by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

Bruce by the signposts at the Charlotte Harbor Sheraton Four Points Hotel, Punta Gorda, FL.

After checking the user manual we determined that it is OK for the Mi-Fi to be plugged in and charging while it is turned on and operating.  The issue with the device is that it really wants to be unplugged from the charger once the battery is fully charged and can overheat if left connected.  Since we do not have a usable RV park Wi-Fi signal at our site it simplifies our online life if we can just leave the Mi-Fi on with the Wi-Fi Ranger connected to it.  The Mi-Fi battery is very slow to charge, especially when the device is turned on, but it eventually reaches full charge.  The battery will not even operate the device for 12 hours but it will operate long enough to get through the night.  What I am still trying to figure out is when to plug it in during the evening so that it is fully charged just before we go to bed.  That is a trial and process.  Once I have it figured out I need to make a habit of plugging it in when I get up in the morning and again at the right time during the evening.

After a little more discussion I e-mailed Jim Guld to confirm plans for a visit and dinner this afternoon.  We settled in with our coffee and iPads for a while and finally had breakfast at 9 AM.  Linda had two frozen toaster waffles she wanted to use up so we had those with peanut butter.  I also add a little apricot preserves on mine.  We split one of the Ruby Red grapefruits we bought at Joshua Citrus the other day.  Yum.

With company coming later today we took showers.   While Linda was getting her shower I copied recent photos from the Sony SLT- a99v to my ASUS laptop.  An updated version of the Play Memories Home software was available, so I downloaded and installed it.  After I showered, shaved, and got dressed Linda cut my hair.  We then cleaned the coach, putting away things that did not need to be out and sweeping/mopping the floor.

With the cleaning of ourselves and the coach completed, we went on an errand run.  After dropping off a small bag of trash our first stop was the Winn-Dixie supermarket.  We then drove to the Turner Agri-Civic Center to drop off recyclable plastic.  We swung by El Pirata Mexican restaurant to check out the menu and then drove to Joshua Citrus Company.  While I picked out some Sugarbelle oranges and Ruby Red grapefruit Linda ordered a three tray box of mixed citrus fruit that included Honeybelle tangelos, Meyer lemons, Navel oranges, and Ruby Red grapefruit.  The box will be shipped to our daughter and she will divide up the fruit with our son.  That arrangement allowed us to send more fruit at a lower cost than shipping to two addresses.  Our final stop was at Walmart for a few food items we did not find at Winn-Dixie.

Back at our coach I spent some time updating the Participants Database for our FMCA Freethinkers chapter (FTH) website.  I also spent some more time trying to recall just how I set up the WP-Members plugin for the SLAARC website so I can recreate it for the FTH website.  I was not able to do that in the time I had available and I think that might be due, in part, to changes that have been made in newer versions of the plugin.  I set up a WordPress User for Linda using the WP-Members registration form and it did not work the way I remembered it in the SLAARC website.  Apparently I am going to have study the user manual in detail.

Christine Guld called at 2:30 PM to let me know that she and Jim were on their way to our resort.  They arrived around 3 PM and we quickly settled into an easy conversation covering a wide range of topics.  Jim and Chris are the “Geeks on Tour” and do technology training (edutainment) at RV rallies and other venues.  They have seen and done a lot of things and are interesting, fun folks with whom to share time.

At 4:30 PM Jim drove us to dinner at Magnolia Seafood and Grill in downtown Arcadia.  The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived and we got a nice corner table by the front picture windows.  Today was Jim’s birthday and we enjoyed sharing it with him and Chris.  We lingered over dinner for almost two hours and by the time we left people were waiting in the lobby for a table.  I don’t like to wait for tables, but it’s usually a good sign when a restaurant is that popular.  Everyone said their meal was excellent.  Jim drove us back to our coach and dropped us off.  There was a music jam back at the Thousand Trails Peace River Preserve in Zolfo Springs starting at 7 PM. They wanted to cap off their evening there and we certainly understood.

We walked over to the resort office and picked up our mail.  My driver license renewal paperwork was there but nothing else.  Back at our coach we turned on the TV.  PBS/Create was airing the Las Vegas BeeGees concert from 20 years ago (again). With that as background we doodled on our iPads and eventually went to bed.

2016/01/09 (S) FTH Website Work

Our plan for today was once again to go watch the Royal Lipizzan Stallions practice session at their facility in Myakka City.  Fog moved in last night and was still thick by the time we finished breakfast at 9 AM.  That was when we needed to leave in order to get there and set up our chairs in time for the start of the session at 10 AM.  For the second time this week we decided to defer this event to a future date with better weather.

Black Crested Night Heron at the Peace River Wildlife Center, south of Punta Gorda, FL.

Black Crested Night Heron at the Peace River Wildlife Center, south of Punta Gorda, FL.

Linda resumed work on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked for a while on photos for the BCM article on the Arcadia Rally 2016.  No one won the Powerball lottery on Wednesday and by this morning the top prize had exceeded 800 million dollars, an all-time record for any lottery in the U. S.  Linda needed a few grocery items for our dinner and we wanted to buy a few more lottery tickets so we walked to the local Winn-Dixie supermarket to take care of those errands.  It was approximately a one mile round trip and on the walk back the cloud cover broke up into partly sunny skies.  Back at the coach we opened all three roof vents, turned on the exhaust fans, and opened the windows wider.

Linda settled back into her counted cross-stitch project and I turned my attention to our FMCA Freethinkers website.  I checked the SLAARC website (WordPress) to see how I set up the quick registration page through the WP-Members plug-in and then set up a similar (hidden) page for the FTH website.  I cleaned up a lot of other things on the website as well, including the member directory.  This work occupied the rest of the afternoon except for a lunch break and a brief walk.

Lunch was grilled “cheese” (non-dairy) and tomato sandwiches–very messy but very good–with grapes and orange slices.  The walk was brief because we stopped to visit with a couple from Ithaca, Michigan.  While we were chatting we watched low, thick white clouds moving towards us from the southwest against a dense, dark gray sky.  A couple of drops of rain was our early warning to return to the coach.

We got back before the rain started but once it did we closed the roof vents and reduced the window openings.  The forecast a few hours earlier had a chance of a thunderstorm at 9:15 PM but by 2 PM it was raining hard and an old leak around the bedroom exhaust vent/fan reappeared.  I also found a small leak at the lower outside corner of the new lower passenger side windshield.  We were both pretty discouraged at these continued leaks having hired people to fix them.  The heavy rain continued off and on for hours prompting Linda to track it in her iPad and eventually turn on the TV.  Lee County, which includes Fort Meyers about 45 miles due south of us, was under a tornado warning.  Arcadia is in Desoto County, which is the next one north, but the weather here was not severe, just wet.

While Linda was preparing dinner I e-mailed the members of our FMCA Freethinkers chapter to let them know that the public portions of the chapter website were now open for viewing and that I would be e-mailing each of them a unique username and password for the Members Only area in the near future.

For dinner Linda made a quinoa dish with julienned carrots, diced green onions, grated ginger, edamame, diced cucumber, and diced bell pepper.  She served it at room temperature and it was another fabulous dish.

After dinner Linda put on the Bengals-Steelers NFL playoff game while I started generating the usernames and passwords for the Freethinkers website.  I finished that work in about 90 minutes with the process of creating users automatically sending an e-mail to each member with their login information.  With that done I settled on the sofa with my iPad to finish up blog posts while we continued to track the weather.  The frontal system responsible for the wet/severe weather stretched from out in the Gulf of Mexico ENE across the Florida peninsula and was drifting to the east as storm cells raced along it.  Fort Meyers got 3″ of rain and sustained some wind damage from a rare January tornado.  The system was due to pass over Naples between 9 and 9:30 PM.  Our friends, Barb and Chuck, are there so hopefully they will just get rain like we did.

We did not have any more rain after dinner so we opened the roof vents and turned the exhaust fans on.  The forecast for Arcadia kept changing through the evening with the probability of rain around midnight bouncing up and down.  By the time we went to bed it looked like we might be done with precipitation for the night.

2016/01/10 (N) Wood Art

We made it through the night without any further rain or threatening storms and got up around 7:30 AM this morning.  We got dressed right away but I did not make coffee.  Our main objective for today was a visit to the Florida Winter National Wood Art Expo and Competition (FWNWAEC) in Punta Gorda.  We gathered up raincoats, camera gear, and a list of addresses for places we might visit, and headed out around 8:15 AM.  We stopped at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Arcadia for coffee and bagels and then continued west into downtown where we picked up US-17 and headed south to Punta Gorda.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

The island at the Venice Rookery, Venice, FL.

We had a pleasant drive down and arrived at the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center in Punta Gorda just after 9 AM.  The FWNWAEC opened at 9 AM so our timing was good.  The parking lot was mostly empty so I got a spot near the building and we finished our coffee before going inside.  Admission was $7 each and we got wristbands that allowed us to come and go all day if we wanted to.

We spent a couple of hours looking at all of the wood carvings on display and I photographed a few of them.  There were also lots of vendors selling tools, materials, supplies, and finished products.  At one of those tables we met John, who heads the woodcarving group at our RV resort, and learned that there will be woodcarving classes at the Turner Center February 8-11 and another exhibition there on February 20.  He invited us to stop by when the woodcarving group meets at the resort on Thursday mornings.

By 11 AM we had seen everything we wanted to see.  On our way out of the building the ladies at the entrance table were explaining to someone else some of the other things to do nearby and I heard mention of a Farmers Market.  I asked about its location and got directions.  Before leaving the event center area we walked the grounds around the Convention Center and Tiki Bar that is part of the Sheraton Four Points hotel next door.  We then headed south on Retta Esplanade through a nice area of wonderful homes on our left and waterfront parklands on our right.  There was a very large craft fair in progress but we passed it by in favor of finding the Farmers Market.

The market was inland a few blocks and was located in a smaller, but lovely, park where the vendor canopies were spread out along a winding pathway that led to a historic house which was open for visitors.  There was also a group of about eight musicians with guitars, fiddles, and such.  Linda bought a large Miatake mushroom after we sampled some and decided it was one of the best mushrooms we had ever tasted.  We found another vendor selling turmeric in root form.  She said it would keep for months so Linda bought a large piece.  At another vendor she bought sesame seeds and flax seeds, so the market turned out to be a good stop.

From the market we continued south in search of the Peace River Wildlife Center.  It was a small, private facility but had quite a collection of animals, mostly birds, that were being rehabilitated (if possible) for release back into the wild or living out their lives’ (if release was not possible).  A small donation was requested on entrance and willingly paid.  Most of the birds were in enclosures that made them difficult to photograph but the pelican area was open, and wild birds came and went, so I was able to get a few photos there.

From the Wildlife Center we drove back north into downtown Punta Gorda and the headed northwest on the Tamiami Trail across Charlotte Harbor towards Port Charlotte.  Our destination was the Earth Origins market in Port Charlotte which was, conveniently, located on the east side of the Tamiami Trail.  I say conveniently because the Trail was basically a 20 mile long strip mall.  It was six lanes divided plus left and right turn lanes, and choked with cars, so having the store on the side of the road we were already on was definitely convenient.

We were done with our shopping by 2:30 PM and realized that we were only 36 miles from Steve and Karen Limkemanns’ place in Nokomis (near Venice).  We called and got Karen on the phone.  Steve was out riding his bike but was due back soon.  They had no plans for the rest of the day so we headed their way.  We had been to their mobile home park (Bay Lake Estates) two years ago but had not been there since they bought their own place this past March.  It took about 45 minutes to get there, by which time Steve had returned from his bike ride.  We got a tour of their new place, which was one of the newer units in the complex and very nice.  We also walked up to see a unit that had caught fire and completely burned.  It was stunning to see how little of it was left.  The unit next door did not burn but the vinyl siding facing the fire melted and sagged.  Most RVs are built much the same way as mobile homes and park model trailers and they do not do well in fire situations.

Before going to dinner we decided to drive to the Venice Rookery.  We saw a sign for it driving up and wondered just what it was.  It turned out to be a large pond with an island that was a favorite resting and nesting area for egrets, herons, Anhingas, and other birds.  The island provide natural protection from land-based predators and locals told us that a large alligator protected them from any threat that might try to swim across.  I took what photos I could but had not planned on doing wildlife photography and did not have the correct lens(es) with me.

The temperature had been moderate during the day and our shorts had been appropriate clothing.  The best time to view the birds is apparently at sunset when large numbers of them return to the rookery.  As the sun sank towards the tree tops it got decidedly chilly and we finally had to call it a day.  We will be back on the 18th to see The Capitol Steps at the Venice Theater and made plans to return to the rookery with appropriate clothing and photo equipment.

From the Rookery we drove directly to Cafe Evergreen for dinner, an organic restaurant not far from Steve and Karen’s winter home.  The Café is not specifically vegan but always has some nice vegan selections.  Linda and I both had roasted beet Reuben sandwiches.  She had an edamame salad as a side and I had baked sweet potato “fries.”  We both had lots of decaffeinated coffee but no dessert as we were quite full by the time we finished our meals.

We went back to Steve and Karen’s place and visited a while longer before finally leaving a little before 8 PM.  Linda wanted to see Downton Abbey at 9 PM and we figured we had an hour drive to get back to our RV park in Arcadia.  The GPS wanted to take us south on I-75 but we went north 10 miles and took FL-70 due east through Myakka River State Park.  About half way to Arcadia we encountered an accident scene and had to wait for 15 minutes before we could continue our trip.  We got home a few minutes after 9 PM so we were still able to watch the show.  The Abominable Bride episode of Sherlock was rebroadcast following Downton Abbey so we watched it again.

The weather had cleared out behind the strong cold front that pushed through the area yesterday and temperatures overnight were forecast to drop into the upper 40’s.  We closed down all the windows before we went to bed.  I turned on the electric heater pad on my side of the bed before climbing in.  It had been a long day and neither of us felt like reading or writing so I turned off the lights and we went to sleep.

 

2016/01/01 (F) – 2016/01/05 (T)

2016/01/01 (F) A Short Move

We got to back to our coach around 1 AM last night but I did not go to sleep until almost 2 AM so we slept in a bit longer than usual this morning.  The rally ended at midnight so there was no breakfast or organized activities this morning.  I wandered around the rally venue taking pictures of buses as they pulled out or were now easier to photograph because adjacent buses had moved out of the way.  The departure of rigs from a rally is always interesting.  It is an asynchronous, unmanaged event that is none-the-less generally very orderly.  There is never a rush for the exit as RVs leave one-by-one except for occasional groups that are traveling together.

 Linda strolls along one of the rows of converted buses at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

Linda strolls along one of the rows of converted buses at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

My wandering eventually took me to the north end of the venue where Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion was parked.  As I had expected the local NAPA store was not open today so David was unable to get the new oil pressure gauge he needed.  He did not plan on sticking around until tomorrow to get the part and was basically ready to leave as soon as I photographed his coach.  After a brief discussion we agreed that he would pull it out onto the main exit road facing south so I could photograph it in good light and without a lot of clutter around it.  I went back to my coach to get my wide angle lens and additional batteries while he moved the bus.  After shooting the exterior, bays, and interior we exchanged contact information and Dave was on his way back to his home RV park in Zephyrhills, Florida.

Departure day at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

Departure day at the Arcadia Rally 2016.

After I was done with Dave’s bus I captured a few exterior images of Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle that I was not able to get yesterday.  I sat and chatted with them for a bit and gave them my contact information.  Although they were not leaving until tomorrow they were getting ready to go explore the area and check out several options for where to camp next.  At this point I had taken all of the rally photos I was going to take and went back to our coach to help Linda prepare it for our departure.

A late 1940’s GMC bus, with some of its original Greyhound markings, preparing to leave the Arcadia Rally 2016.

A late 1940’s GMC bus, with some of its original Greyhound markings, preparing to leave the Arcadia Rally 2016.

After having a light lunch we finished prepping our coach to travel and pulled out at 1 PM for the short trip to Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) in Arcadia.  Linda drove the car and followed me over.  Once we were in the resort she went ahead of me to find the office and get us registered.  While she was doing that two guys showed up in a golf cart.  They made a phone call and then had me follow them to the office.  From there they escorted me to site #K-2 and got me parked.  It was a somewhat narrow back-in site but they got me positioned just right.

Linda went back to the office to finish our registration and extended our stay until March 7th.  The Holistic Holiday at Sea cruise returns to the Port of Miami on March 5th and we have to pick up Michael and Mara and then get him back to the Tampa airport and get her back to the resort.  We will have the 6th to visit with Mara and then be on the move.

While Linda was taking care of our registration I leveled the bus and shut it down.  I got the shorepower connected but was surprised that the no load voltage on L1 was only 115 VAC and that L2 was even lower at 111 VAC.  It was warm and humid but running our air-conditioners with those voltages might be a problem as our Progressive Industries EMS might cut off the shorepower if it dropped any lower.

When Linda got back we deployed all of the awnings.  A frog dropped from the driver side forward awning onto the grass when we opened it.  It was unharmed and hopped off somewhere.  While we were setting up we met Ron and Vera, who have the site just south of ours, as they were out washing their trailer.

With the voltage at our site lower than I liked I decided not to run the air conditioners.  We opened all the windows and roof vents and turned on all three exhaust fans plus an inside fan.  We endured a rather warm/humid afternoon with just the natural ventilation, helped a little by a southwesterly breeze coming in the driver side windows.  Our coach is parked facing southwest, so we are getting the afternoon sun.

Lots of residents walked or rode their bikes past our site.  Most waved and/or said “hello” and a few stopped to chat.  Conrad and Bonnie visited for quite a while and shared a lot of information with us about the resort and especially its activities, which are apparently numerous.  Big Tree RV Resort is a Carefree Resorts property and promotes itself as an active adult community.  Early evidence suggested that this might, indeed, be the case.

By late afternoon I was tired and uncomfortable so I took a nap.  Once the sun dropped below the trees it cooled off enough that we took a leisurely stroll around the resort to get a sense of the layout and the people.  We almost always do this when we arrive at any new campground, even if we are only going to be there for one night.  Lots of folks were out walking or riding their bicycles.  More than a few had strong French accents and we noticed quite a few license plates from Quebec Province in Canada.

Back at our rig Linda made vegan pancakes for dinner and served them with fresh blueberries and real maple syrup.  We had pineapple later for dessert and a small glass of wine while we watched the first episode of the new season of Sherlock on PBS.  Linda went to bed as soon as the program was over.  Since I took a nap earlier I stayed up for a while, checked us into the resort on RVillage, and tried to fill in missing information for my blog posts from December 30th and 31st.  Eventually I was unable to keep my eyes open and went to sleep.

2016/02/02 (S) Big Tree Carefree RV Resort

It was very foggy last night by the time I went to bed but had dissipated somewhat by dawn.  We slept in and got up at 8:30 AM.  Linda got a shower while I made coffee and then I got my shower and trimmed my beard shorter than usual.  We had coffee, juice, and granola with blueberries for breakfast and split a banana.

After breakfast we drove to downtown Arcadia to visit the farmers market.  Although rain was not forecast for today it was misting when we left so we took our rain coats.  It was a good thing that we did as the mist got heavier as we got to downtown.  There were only a few vendors in the square and none of them were selling fresh produce so we did not buy anything.  There was a vendor with lots of pickled products that looked interesting so we may buy something from him at the next farmers market in two weeks.  We walked around the block and back to our car and then drove back to the resort on the east edge of town about two miles from downtown.

We lost a decorative lug nut cover off of the passenger side of the coach yesterday just after I turned onto eastbound FL-70.  Linda looked for it as we drove by but did not spot it.

Back at the coach Linda vacuumed the interior, wet mopped the floor, and then went for a walk.  I decided to get a short article written about the Arcadia Rally 2016 for Bus Conversion Magazine while it was still fresh in my mind and before we got busy exploring this part of Florida.  First, I transferred my photos from the last few days to my computer and organized them.  Next, I set up the folder and sub-folders for the article, opened my article template (Word), and wrote a page of text.  I then started selecting and processing photographs and, except for a few breaks, that is what I did for most of the day.

When Linda returned from her walk she made a grocery list and then took the car to Walmart.  The Walmart is directly opposite the entrance to the resort on the south side of FL-70, which is the main east-west highway through Arcadia.  FL-70 is a divided road at this point so to get to the Walmart we have turn right and go west on FL-70 and then make a U-turn, which is legal here, or make a left onto southbound US-31 and then go in the west entrance.  To get back to the resort we can exit the Walmart at a traffic light and turn left onto westbound FL-70 and then immediately turn right into the resort entrance.  If we are coming east from west of the resort entrance we must make a U-turn at the traffic light in front of the Walmart of a little farther to the east.  The traffic signal also serves a much larger residential development just east of the resort and there is a crosswalk, so we can walk to Walmart if we do not expect to have a lot to carry back.

When Linda got back and had the groceries put away we had chickpea salad on greens for lunch.  During the afternoon I took a break from working on my article to hook up the water softener.  Back inside I wanted to back up my most recent photos but my computer could not “see” the NAS.  I ended up shutting down everything and restarting it a particular order: WFR, A|W router, NAS, and lastly computer.  That reset the connections (IP addresses) and I was able to get back to work.

I had been sitting most of the day so we went for an evening stroll before dinner.  Back at the coach Linda made a zoodles “pasta” with mushrooms, onions, garlic, broccoli, turmeric, and flax seed.  After dinner we decided to do our laundry so we gathered up clothes and bedding, loaded the laundry into the car, and drove it to the resort laundromat, which is located in the same building as the office, library, and activities/meeting room.  We loaded four washers and then four dryers.  We took our iPads with us and doodled while we waited.  There was a good, free Wi-Fi signal at the building so we may take advantage of that while we are here.

After the laundry was done, folded, and hung up we watched America Reframed: A Will To The Woods on PBS/2.  It was a program about the “green burial” movement and one man’s determination to have a green burial if/when he succumbed to non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  He did and got his wish.  It was a well done documentary.

2016/01/03 (N) Another Article

A cold front drifted southeast through our location yesterday afternoon bringing with it cooler temperatures and an increased probability of rain.  We left the windows open just an inch but I closed all three roof vents before we went to bed.  We slept in this morning because we did not have any pressing reason to get up.  When we did arise I made coffee and Linda eventually fixed toast and grapefruit for our breakfast.

Linda needed something that she forgot to buy at Walmart yesterday so she walked there to get it.  When she got back she headed out to continue her walk in the resort but the rain finally came and she quickly returned to our coach.  Once it started it was persistent and heavy at times.  We eventually discovered that the skylight in the hallway was leaking which did not make either of us very happy.

I settled in early and spent the whole day working on projects related to the Arcadia Rally.  I processed all of the photos of Dave Aungier’s 1977 MCI MC-5C bus conversion and inserted a few of them into a Word doc to serve as an example.  I uploaded the photos and the Word document to a folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed Dave the read-only link.  I selected and processed a few photos for rally organizers Bill and Brenda Phelan, uploaded those to another Dropbox folder, and e-mailed them the read-only link.  I then focused on my article about the rally for Bus Conversion Magazine (BCM), finishing the draft of the print version around 9 PM.  I uploaded it to the BCM folder in my Dropbox and e-mailed the publisher, editor, and layout technician.  I still need to upload cover and centerfold photos and then select, process, and upload photos for the bonus content section of the digital edition.

During the course of the day I took breaks for lunch and dinner.  Lunch was a really tasty cannelloni bean salad with capers, olives, lemon zest, raw garlic, and other tasty ingredients.  Dinner was a salad of power greens with couscous, cooked beets, blueberries, and orange segments.

I also e-mailed Pat Lintner and texted Chuck Spera to see if they had arrived at the Florida destinations.  Linda was playing online word games with her sister (Sr. Marilyn) and with Karen Limkemann, and thereby learned that Karen and Steve had arrived at their new place near Venice, Florida where they were busy assembling furniture they just purchased at IKEA.  She also exchanged text messages with both of our children regarding our mailing address while we are at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort (BTCRVR) and a few items we needed them to forward on to us.  When we checked out the mail room yesterday we discovered that every site at the resort has a cubby and management had already placed a tag on ours with our last name on it.  That was a nice touch and made us feel just that much more welcome even though we will only be here for a little over two months.

After dinner we turned on the TV and tuned in Part 1 of Ken Burns’ film on Prohibition on PBS/World.  We switched to PBS/main and watched the first episode of the sixth and final season of Downton Abby.  At the conclusion of the episode we switched back to Prohibition.  There was still a chance for rain through tonight, and overnight low temperatures were forecast to drop to around 50 degrees F for the next few nights, so we left the roof vents closed and the windows barely open and went to bed.

2016/01/04 (M) Unblocked

The overnight low dropped into the upper 40’s last night and made for nice sleeping conditions.  As sometimes happens with me when I do not have a clock-regulated schedule to keep, my awake/sleep cycle slowly shifts as I stay up a little later each night and get up a little later each morning.  I did not go to sleep last night until after 1 AM and we both got up this morning between 8:30 and 9 to pleasantly cool temperatures in the coach and bright, sunny skies outside.

As we were getting dressed we discovered that an old leak in the bedroom was still leaking.  The wall just below the front corner of the passenger side window was wet.  Linda’s house slippers were stored on top of the OTR HVAC duct cover and also got wet.  That’s how we discovered that we still have a problem.  Like the other leaks around windows I am convinced that the problem is the way the awnings were originally installed by Royale Coach.  They were mounted to the hinged body panels that hold the windows and I think the gaskets for these panels were damaged in the process.  Whatever the reason it is very discouraging that we still have leaks in the coach.  The other possibility was that the water was getting in around the Fan-Tastic roof vent/fan and then running through the ceiling to the side wall and down.

I got our Verizon Mi-Fi/WiFi-Ranger combo online and then made coffee while Linda cooked oatmeal for our breakfast.  We doodled on our iPads for a while and I renewed my subscription to the RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory.  It was only $9.99/year and they had a holiday renewal special extending it to 18 months.  I have this app on my Android-based Samsung Galaxy III Smartphone.

My focus for today was to work on the FMCA Freethinkers Chapter website and then unlock the public pages.  I received an e-mail from chapter president Bob Pelc recently that prompted me to take care of this and it took most of the day except for beaks to eat and go for a couple of walks, one after lunch and one after dinner.

It was a beautiful, sunny day with lower humidity, a light breeze, and a high of 69 degrees F.  While walking, we met Gary and Pat a few sites down from us.  They came in yesterday and have a house back in Michigan about three miles from ours.  It’s a small world.

We stopped in the office so I could see it and Pat greeted me by name.  Since we had never met that caught me by surprise.  She recognized/remembered Linda from when she registered us and made the assumption about who I was.  She and her husband, Jim, manage the park.  Jim was one of the two guys who led me to the site and got us parked.  Pat said she wanted to see our bus and we invited her to stop by anytime.  We have overheard a couple of comments and had a few conversations that suggest folks are curious about our bus and word of its presence has spread through the resort.

Lunch was hummus and dark leafy greens sandwiches with oranges and grapes.  Dinner was pan-seared tofu slices on a bed of dark leafy greens with Asian peanut sauce and apple slices.  Both meals were very tasty.

I got an unexpected call from Kathy Dewsbury-White, executive director of the Michigan Assessment Consortium.  We had not spoken it quite some time so it was a pleasant surprise.  After our evening walk we settled in to watch our usual Monday evening TV programs.  Having worked all day at my computer I was not in the humor to even doodle on my iPad.  We watched the 11 PM news long enough to known the world is falling apart, and switched to the local weather channel (same station) which forecast sunny days ahead.  There wasn’t anything on any of the PBS channels we wanted to see so we were in bed and asleep by 11:30 PM.

2016/01/05 (T) 1969 Model 07 Eagle

We were up at 7:30 AM this morning.  The temperature overnight fell into the upper 40’s and it was 64 degrees F in the coach so we put on our sweats.  I made coffee and turned on the Aqua-Hot long enough to raise the temperature to 69 degrees and take the chill off of the interior.  We had granola, blueberries, and a banana for breakfast, along with juice, and then doodled on our iPads while we finished our coffee.  I renewed my subscription the RFinder World Wide Repeater Directory yesterday and reset my password this morning so I could use the website and Android app on my phone.  I searched for repeaters within 20 miles of our location.  There appeared to be two in Arcadia but many more west and south of us in Punta Gorda, Murdock, Venice, and Port Charlotte.  At 10 AM we took showers, got dressed, and then got to work.

Our bus in its winter 2016 home on site K2 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, FL.

Our bus in its winter 2016 home on site K2 at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort in Arcadia, FL.

Linda was checking e-mail and noticed that the PayPal receipt for the RFinder annual subscription had been processed as a monthly payment.  It’s only $9.99, but yikes! just the same.  I e-mailed the folks at RFinder (Suffolk Systems) and also filed a complaint with PayPal.  I knew the folks at RFinder would straighten it out but my complaint was really with PayPal.  Their e-mail had instructions for dealing with this that did not correspond to their website.  Not helpful.

The first order of business for me was dumping the holding tanks and filling the fresh water tank.  Once that was done my main focus today was roughing out a featured bus article for Bus Conversions Magazine on Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s 1969 Model 07 Eagle bus conversion.  They had their bus at the Arcadia Rally last week and I was able to interview them and photograph it.  They were there two years ago but I was not able to do an article on their bus at that time.

“K” row at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

“K” row at Big Tree Carefree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL.

Linda took her exercise walk in the morning.  When she got back we had mock deli sandwiches for lunch and then went for a stroll around the resort.  After our stroll we drove to the Joshua Citrus Company location a couple of miles south of the RV resort.  We bought a few things for ourselves and picked up a brochure describing the assortments of fruit they package and ship.  We want to ship some fresh citrus fruit to our family members back in Michigan while we are here.

While we were at Joshua Citrus I got a call from Bob Greenberg, W2CYK, at RFinder regarding my e-mail and PayPal complaint.  He explained what I needed to do to correct the error.  When we got back to our rig I canceled the PayPal complaint and then cancelled the subscription (recurring payment).  RFinder will e-mail me in June 2017 to remind me that I need to renew.  I can set up an annual subscription at that time if I want to.

Self-portrait in a wide angle traffic mirror.  (Big Tree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL)

Self-portrait in a wide angle traffic mirror. (Big Tree RV Resort, Arcadia, FL)

For dinner Linda made black-eyed peas with celery, bell pepper, onion, garlic, and hot pepper flakes.  She served it with open-faced Boca “burgers” (vegan) and corn.  We went for another stroll after dinner.  The high temperature today only reached the lower 70’s, and cooled off quickly after the sun set, so we each bundled up a bit (me more than her) to avoid getting chilled.  When we got back to our rig I was done with computer-based work for the day and settled in to watch our Tuesday evening TV programs.  After catching a little bit of the local news and weather we both went to sleep.

 

2015/12/31 (R) Arcadia Rally Day 3

Today was the third and final day of the converted bus rally in Arcadia, Florida.  Like the last two mornings we walked over to the activities building at the Turner Agri-Civic Center for bagels and coffee.  We went over at 7:30 AM so we would have time to eat and visit and still get back to our coach before 8:30 AM.  We arranged yesterday for Hotties Detailing to wash our coach and polish the Alcoa aluminum wheels this morning.  They expected to be on site around 8:30 AM and were actually a few minutes early.

Not a bus conversion, but certainly a very nice Airstream trailer.

Not a bus conversion, but certainly a very nice Airstream trailer (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL).

I stayed around the coach to get them started and then wandered off with my camera to take photos of all the rigs in the east row.  Most of them were backed in facing east so I wanted to take advantage of the morning light.  We had fog again overnight and into the morning but it dissipated by 9 AM.  I returned to our coach before Hotties finished to check on the work.  They did a nice job at a fair price.

I went to Ronnie and Diann Mewbourn’s coach to interview them for a featured bus article in Bus Conversion Magazine about their 1969 Model 07 Eagle conversion.  By the time I was done with the interview it was time for their lunch so I returned to our coach.  I went back in the afternoon and photographed the interior and bays of their bus.

The east-facing row looking north from the south end.  (Arcadia Bus Rally)

The east-facing row looking north from the south end. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

As it was last night, dinner was served at 5 PM.  The food for everyone else was different from the night before but included bread and baked potatoes so we were able to have that in addition to our salads.

Starting at 7 PM Master of Ceremonies John Vickery handled the door prizes with help from rally organizers/hosts Bill and Brenda Phelan.  The recipient of the third boxed set of Bus Conversion Magazines was Dan and Sandy Cerrato.  I was getting their information after the door prizes concluded and they invited me back to see their converted bus, a 1953 GM PD4104 that they have had for 37 years.  I got the grand tour and had a long chat with both of them.

The east-facing row looking south from the north end.  (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

The east-facing row looking south from the north end. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

This was Dan and Sandy’s first rally of any kind ever and I got the feeling that they really enjoyed it.  They are very proud of their bus, and obviously still very fond of it after all those years.  They had started subscribing to BCM in early 2015 and Dan had read all of my 2015 articles.  BCM was also where they found out about the Arcadia rally.  They live near Ocala, Florida, so it was an easy trip for them.  Dan was interested in writing an article for BCM about their bus and their experiences with it, so we talked about that at length and I offered to assist him if he wanted.

Buses in the infield, including some from the later 1940’s. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

Buses in the infield, including some from the later 1940’s. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

The entertainment for New Year’s Eve was Kenny Flint and the Rough Diamond Band.  We sat with Paul/Claudine Elbisser and Dan/Kathy Rory and their son James.  James is a young man with Down’s Syndrome but he had the time of his life dancing with the ladies.  Kenny even let him sing/play with the band for a couple of songs.  We had snacks and a little bit to drink, but not much, and stayed until midnight to welcome in the New Year.  We did not have champagne this year, the first time I can remember that we skipped that part of the New Year’s celebration.  With the playing/singing of Auld Lang Syne at midnight the band wrapped up the entertainment for the evening and the small crowd drifted out and headed back to their rigs.

The west-facing row looking north from the south end.  The nose of our coach is just visible, 4th from the right.  (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

The west-facing row looking north from the south end. The nose of our coach is just visible, 4th from the right. (Arcadia Bus Rally, Arcadia, FL)

On the way back to our coach we stopped at Dan and Sandy’s bus and sat around a small campfire for a while.  Scott Crosby was there and David Evans joined us for a while.  Although it was not cool enough to require, or even justify, a campfire everyone enjoyed it.  It’s just not camping without a campfire.  Both Scott and David have GM Silverside buses from the late 1940’s.  Scott does video production and some still photography professionally and owns/operates the BusGreaseMonkey.com website/forum.  He mounted his small camera on a tripod and made time exposure “light paintings” of several buses, including ours, which he e-mailed to me.

By 1 AM we were tired, thanked Dan and Sandy for the campfire, and headed home.  Linda was to bed and asleep right away but it took me until 1:45 AM to finally turn out the lights and go to sleep.

 

2015/12/29 (T) Arcadia Rally (Day 1 of 3)

Although sleeping conditions were not as comfortable as they should have been with the air-conditioners running we apparently slept OK.  Linda was up at 7 AM and I got up around 7:30 to dense fog.  Yes, the RH outside was 100%.

The rally officially started today with breakfast from 7 to 9 AM so we got dressed and walked over to have coffee and a bagel.  We ended up talking to Scott Crosby, Jim Seagraves (another GLCC guy), Paul and Claudine Elbisser (also from GLCC), and a couple of other guys, one of whom was from British Columbia.  Bus conversions are a tiny fraction of all RVs, but folks who own them have a strong affinity for the company of other folks who have them, and will travel considerable distances to get together with them.  We lingered quite a while before returning to our rig.

There was a nice breeze that made for comfortable conditions under our patio awning so I sat out there and wrote the draft of my blog post for yesterday and then started on today’s post.  Linda went for a walk with her iPod and then returned to sit outside and read.  We went inside around noon and Linda made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches with sliced tomatoes, greens, and onions.  Vegan comfort food.

Linda went back outside after lunch but I stayed inside and reviewed Part 1 of my 2-part article on Habitat For Humanity for RVers in the draft copy of the February 2016 issue.  I annotated the PDF using the Acrobat Reader Sticky Notes feature and e-mailed it back to Gary and Jorge.  I then joined Linda outside and studied the manual for our Sony flash unit.  I needed to use it tonight but had not put batteries in it, mounted it on the camera, or otherwise had a chance to use it since I bought it from B&H Photo back in October.

Tom Mason came by on his bicycle around 1:45 PM reminding folks that the ice cream social was at 2 PM.  Although we were certainly not going to have ice cream we walked over just to be sociable.  When we got back from the social I got the first boxed set of Bus Conversion Magazines out from under the bed.  I then gathered my camera, flash unit, and external battery pack and sat on the sofa with them, and the manuals, and figured how to connect and set everything.  Linda was working in the kitchen making her chickpea salad for our dinner and it was darker than usual in the coach as we have the skylights blocked, the awnings out, and the shades down to block the sun.  I took a few test shots with the flash and it seemed to work well so I called it good for now.

Linda makes Chickpea (Garbanzo bean) salad while I test the new Sony flash unit with the a99v camera body.

Linda makes Chickpea (Garbanzo bean) salad while I test the new Sony flash unit with the a99v camera body.

We eventually had chickpea salad on greens for dinner with a slice of bread on the side (with vegan buttery spread).  We left at 6:30 PM and walked to the event building.  I carried the camera/flash combo and Linda carried the box of magazines.  I found Bill and Brenda at the back of the room going over the opening ceremonies with master of ceremonies John Vickery.  Part of the discussion was about the door prizes and we gave them the box of magazines (1 of 3).  I started to explain what was in the box and John asked if I would just stand up and explain that when the time came, which I agreed to do.

Announcements and door prizes started at 7 PM.  There were a lot of door prizes and David Evans won the first boxed set of Bus Conversion Magazines.  I got a few photos of him accepting the box and got his name later.  He was a subscriber in the past but has not subscribed since Gary Hatt acquired the magazine in 2012.  David is here in a 1948 GM PD3703 which, along with Scott Crosby’s 1948 Silversides and Don and Sandra Moyer’s 1948 Spartan, has to be one of the oldest converted buses on the road in North America.

The entertainment for the evening was a 4-piece bluegrass band.  They were very good, and played until 11 PM with only two short breaks.  There was only a small audience left by the time they finished but it was an appreciative group.  After the evening entertainment was concluded we wandered back to our rig and tuned in the WINK weather sub-channel (11.2) which covers southwest Florida.  Linda was up until midnight, very late for her, and I finally went to bed at 12:30 AM and turned the lights out just before 1 AM.

 

2015/12/28 (M) On to Arcadia

Even though we were pulling out this morning we did not set an alarm to get up at some particular time.  We were up by 7:30 AM anyway. I did not make coffee or have breakfast and started preparing for departure.  We packed up our computers and put them on the bed, put away remote controls, and turned off the laser printer and NAS.  While Linda cleared off counters and secured drawers I took care of some outside things.

I pulled the tow bar parts bags out, set them aside, got out the tow bar adapters for the car, and inserted them.  I folded up the two bag chairs and put them in the car and folded up the plastic table and stowed it in the front bay.  I checked the pressure in the two front/steer tires on the bus and they were fine so I did not have to get the air compressor and hose out.  I put up all of the awnings and opened the air valve for the engine accessories and toad braking system.

When everything else was ready Linda pulled the car out while I turned on the bus chassis batteries and started the bus engine.  I let the chassis air up, pulled up the tag axle, pulled out of our site, and then backed up until I was parallel with, and close to, the edge of the road on the passenger side and not blocking anyone’s driveway.  Linda pulled the car up behind the bus and we connected it for towing.  The breakaway cable finally broke so I got the spare cable out of the glove box but I could not get the key out of the disconnect.  Rather than risk breaking it and thereby disabling the car, we decided to travel without it.

We had a final, quick chat with our neighbor’s, Danny and Dorothy, and with Ken on the other side, and pulled away around 9:10 AM.  We were out of the resort and headed southeast on US-27 at 9:26.  At Ocala we headed south on I-75 as far as exit 301 (Cortez Blvd) at Brooksville, and headed east on FL-700 as far as US-98 and headed south.  Most of this segment was also co-terminus with US-35.  The drive was mostly rural and very pretty.  It was warm outside but patchy clouds kept the temperature inside the coach from getting too warm, at least for a while.  Eventually I turned on the OTR HVAC system and it worked well.

We passed through several smaller towns but eventually got to Lakeland which was much larger, with lots of stop lights and traffic, so it took longer to get through.  Still, it was an attractive community and something to see besides an Interstate highway.  The Detroit Tigers spring training camp is in Lakeland and we will likely drive up for some games while we are in this part of Florida.

US-17 joined up with US-98 as we were leaving Lakeland.  Somewhere south of Lakeland (Fort Meade?) US-98 turned east towards Sebring and we continued south on US-17 to Arcadia.  A few miles before reaching US-70 west of Arcadia we turned onto NE Turner Road which ran due south towards the Turner Agri-Civic Center and bypassed downtown Arcadia.  We pulled into the Civic Center, which was the rally venue, at 1:15 PM.

Linda checked in with rally organizers/hosts Bill and Brenda Phelan.  Linda stayed with the coach while Bill drove me over to check out sites.  I selected site #9 which would have us facing west with our passenger side facing north.  Although this orientation put the afternoon sun on our windshields, it also provided shade in conjunction with the patio awning.  Dan (?) led us over to the site and then left us to unhook the car and back the bus in.  We leveled the coach (we thought) and I shut it down and went through our arrival preparations.

The inside of the coach was cool from the OTR HVAC and I wanted to keep it that way, so we left the windows and roof vents closed and put the insulated foil panels in the three large skylights.  We also found the snap covers for the side windows next to the driver seat and installed those.  We were able to position the coach which generous space to our passenger side and far enough back that the 25 foot shorepower cord just reached the outlet box.  After plugging in we turned on all three of the residential air-conditioners.  We deployed all of the awnings, including the patio awning, to shade the windows and provide a shady place to sit outdoors.  We also have a fresh water and sewer connection but may not use them while we are here.  We are only here until Friday or Saturday and came in with a mostly full fresh water tank and mostly empty waste tanks.

Although it was very warm (86 degrees F) and humid the clouds had thickened and filled in during the second half of our drive and there was a good, steady breeze.  The bus ran well today including the OTR HVAC.  The low pressure light only came on briefly one time while I was idling at a stop light.  Apparently it works a lot better when it is relatively warm outside.

Once we were set up we had a light lunch of roasted red pepper hummus and sourdough pretzel nibblers with fresh apple slices and orange segments.  We then drove to Walmart to pick up some anti-itch cream and bought a few grocery items while we were there.  We checked out the filling station on the property and decided it was not a good choice for our bus.  We also found the entrance to Big Tree RV Resort which was, literally, across the street from the Walmart.  We drove back towards downtown and stopped at the Winn-Dixie to see if they had a better selection of boxed wines than the Walmart.  They did, and we bought a Franzia Crisp White.  We drove the rest of the way into downtown in search of a filling station with diesel fuel, and access for large vehicles, before returning to the rally site.

Linda wanted to go for a walk so we strolled past the buses and other RVs that were already here.  We ran into Scott Crosby working on Dan’s windshield.  We met Dan, Kathy, and their son James at the FMCA GLCC Surplus and Salvage Rally back in September.  Apparently the windshield on their GM PD4106 started coming out of its gasket along the top and caving into the cockpit on their trip to Arcadia.  Scott was up on a ladder getting the gasket reseated around the frame and glass.

We continued our walk and discovered that Paul and Claudine Elbisser, also from our FMCA GLCC chapter, were here.  We visited with them for quite a while before finishing our stroll around the rally and returning to our rig for dinner.  Linda microwaved a sweet potato and served the last of the Gardein stuffed mock turkey roll and broccoli that we had for dinner on Christmas day.

After dinner I tried tuning in OTA TV stations, orienting the antenna both WNW towards Tampa St. Petersburg, and due south towards Port Charlotte, Punta Gorda, and Ft. Meyers.  When I scanned for stations I found about 60 in each direction although many of them were the same stations.  So much for digital TV signals bring highly directional.  We watched reruns of our Monday evening TV shows on CBS.  We also turned on the Verizon Mi-Fi so we could get online long enough to check TV tower locations and network affiliations, check our e-mail, and change our location in RVillage.

I got an e-mail from Gary at BCM with the draft of the February 2016 issue and a request that I proofread Part 1 of my 2-part article on our Habitat For Humanity RV Care-A-Vanner build in July 2013.  I was a little tired from our day’s activities and was not in the humor to review articles, edit old blog posts, or write new ones so I just watched TV and fiddled with the thermostats and fan speeds on our air-conditioners.  I was puzzled by the fact that it felt humid in the rig in spite of the air-conditioners having been on all day.  The front and rear ones seem to be cooling better than the middle one, but the front one was the only one that we seaw water dripping from the drain line outside the bus.  I admit to having some level of concern about where the condensed water from the evaporators is going, assuming they are condensing any moisture.

The overnight low was forecast to be about 70 with morning fog, i.e., 100% relative humidity so in spite of the fan noise we left the bus closed up and the A-Cs running.  I adjusted the thermostats down to make sure the condensers would run, and lowered the fan speed in the bedroom to reduce the noise level.  I plugged the power in for the rear OTA TV antenna, but it was not functioning correctly and was clearly not going to fix itself.  It needs to be replaced but I am reluctant to buy another one of the same model as the failure rate so far has been 50%.  Linda read, and I played a few games, on our iPads and then went to sleep.

 

2015/12/24 (R) Christmas Eve 2015

Neither of us slept as well as we would have liked last night.  The outside temperature only dropped into the upper 60’s with high humidity and the interior of the coach stayed a bit warmer than that.  Linda woke up and read from 2:30 to 3:30 AM; at least that’s what she told me this morning as I was unaware of it at the time.  We both got up at 8 AM and enjoyed our first cup of coffee while iPadding and listening to Christmas music CDs.  We bought an apple strudel at Publix last night that appeared to be vegan and had some of it for breakfast with our second cup of coffee.  It wasn’t great strudel, but it was still a treat.  All-in-all it was not a bad way to start Christmas Eve day.

Williston Crossings RV Resort, and many of its residents and temporary guests, have been in the holiday spirit since we arrived here on the 1st of the month.  Red and green laser “starlight” projectors are in widespread use at night and many sites have decorated their street light and/or RV with lights while some have put up more substantial decorations.  Most notable, however, are the golf carts, many of which are decorated for the season.  Most folks here wave as they pass whether driving their car or golf cart, riding a bike, or just walking, but based on our prior experience this is normal so I cannot say that folks are in a friendlier spirit than usual for the holiday.  There is, however, a fair amount of “Merry Christmas” being passed around and I think it reflects the fact that most folks are glad to be here even with the record heat.

I had an unfinished chore list from yesterday but wasn’t really in the humor to work on those items on Christmas Eve and do not intend to work on them tomorrow either.  One of the side gaskets I our entry door window came out again yesterday, however, so I will have to fix that again and do so soon, certainly before we leave for Arcadia.

Linda went for her solo morning walk at 10:15 AM and I settled in to work at my computer.  I was determined to make headway with uploading blog posts but first I wanted to dispatch the article for Bus Conversion Magazine on the installation of the ITR Oasis Combi diesel-fueled hydronic heating system in Butch and Fonda Williams’ MCI MC-9 NJT.

Butch had made a number of good edits that filled in missing details so I incorporated all of them and rewrote a few sentences in my own voice.  I then moved all of the photos for the print version of the article “in line” with the text and changed the format to 2-column.  I even figured out how to get the text to wrap around the vertical photos to get a better idea of how many pages the article will take.  I completed this work around 12:30 PM and uploaded it to the BCM proofreading folder in my Dropbox.  I also updated my article status tracking spreadsheet and uploaded that to the Dropbox.  I moved the files on my computer from the Out-For-Review folder to the Proofreading folder and mirrored that on the NAS.  I then e-mailed BCM publisher Gary Hatt to let him know the article was there and ready for review.

Linda got back from her walk and made sandwiches for lunch with mock deli slices (vegan), Daiya non-dairy cheese slices, and lots of greens.  We ate outside as the temperature in the coach was 89.something degrees F.  She stayed outside in the shade and read but I went back inside to work on blog posts.  I was not really uncomfortable, as I was not exerting myself physically, but knew we would have an uncomfortable night if we did not cool off the coach.  When Linda came back inside we closed up the coach and turned on two of the three air-conditioners.  I worked the rest of the afternoon on my blog, editing and then uploading seven posts covering September 1 through 7.

For dinner we had the leftover pizza from last night’s visit to Satchel’s.  We managed to get six dinner meals out of our three visits which is 25% of our dinners for the first 24 days of December.  At dinner last night we suggested to John that it might be nice to have a special campfire on Christmas Eve.  He liked the idea and said he would check with Bob (the resort manager) and take care of it if he got the green light.  Linda packed some wine and we walked down to the firepit at 6:30 PM.

Long before we got to the firepit we could see there was no fire.  In fact, there wasn’t anyone there.  We noticed golf carts at Jeff and Kathy’s site nearby, including John and Ali’s, so we walked over there.  We found Ali, along with three other folks, but not John.  It turned out that John was ill with some sort of gastrointestinal ailment and there was not going to be a special Christmas Eve fire.  There were enough empty chairs for us to have a seat so we stuck around for a while to chat and enjoy a small glass of wine.

Kathy got a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 Lite for her grandson Spencer and asked me if I would get it set up for him.  I did this two years ago and agreed to try again.  Spencer is arriving tomorrow afternoon with his family and Kathy was hoping to have the tablet set up so he can use it right away.

I got a pair of text messages from my long-time friend, J. C. Armbruster, wishing me a happy Christmas Eve and inquiring as to our whereabouts.  I did not have my glasses or stylus with me so I deferred replying until we got back to our rig.

When we returned we found a large box sitting on our entry stepstool.  Linda checked the label and it was definitely addressed to us.  The office closed at 1 PM today and there wasn’t anything there for us when Linda checked around noon, so it must have arrived later.  Someone in the office must have figured it was Christmas gifts and brought it to our site, which they do not normally do.  Linda opened it enough to confirm that it was, indeed, gifts from Brendan, Shawna, and Madeline and then set it aside for tomorrow.

I replied to the text message from J. C. (which sounds a little bizarre on Christmas Eve).  I then spent an hour trying to configure the Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 without success.  I thought the problem was Wi-Fi related as the tablet did not have any difficulty connecting to the resort Wi-Fi system and obtaining an IP address but it never opened a browser window where I could enter the username and password to get through the resort’s filter and out to the Internet.

I turned on the guest network on our WiFi Ranger without a password and tried connecting to that as the WFR was already logged in, but it still did not work.  I tried creating a Samsung account but the screen just said “…processing” and the little icon just kept spinning.  I also tried entering Spencer’s Gmail address and password(s) that Kathy gave me but the device could not connect to Google.  It’s possible that the problem was simply an incorrect e-mail address and/or password but the error message I kept getting said the tablet could not establish a connection to the remote server.  That sounded like an Internet access issue to me.

I also tried resetting the device to factory defaults but the instructions for doing that apparently assumed (required?) that the device had already been set up correctly and activated.  I cleaned the screen and packed everything back into the box.  I will return it to Kathy in the morning.  Perhaps John will be feeling better and can get it to work.

When I picked up the screen cleaner it was wet.  It was sitting on the desk under the air intake for the middle air-conditioner which is on the bottom of the cabinet.  I shut that A-C off, moved the electronics and paper that were sitting there, and wiped up the small amount of water.  Apparently the drain line for the drip pan is clogged so I will have to add that to my list of bus chores.

We were tired of listening to the air-conditioning but it was warm in the bedroom so I turned on the third A-C to cool it down.  Before turning in for the night I turned the fan to a slower speed and tried adjusting the thermostat, as it had gotten rather chilly.

 

2015/12/23 (W) Satchel’s Trifecta

We were up by 8 AM and sat around drinking our coffee until 9 AM.  For breakfast we had fresh blueberries, bananas, oranges, and toast along with orange/grapefruit juice.  I had apricot preserves on my toast.  I like all kinds of fruit preserves, but apricot is my favorite.

We are here at Williston Crossings until the 28th but that means we only have five more days and are starting to think about leaving and what we have to do to be ready.  Today’s chores potentially included:

  • Recharging the water softener;
  • Tightening the toilet paper holder in the bathroom;
  • Adjusting the pressure in the tires;
  • Removing and reinstalling the screen material for the entry door awning window.

It’s always something.

Fixing the toilet paper holder requires an Allen wrench which means I would have to get out my tool boxes.  Fixing the screen requires a special tool for inserting the retaining rib, which I do not have, and thus requires a trip to the local ACE Hardware store.  Adjusting tire pressures requires me to get out the air compressor and air hose, which is a nuisance.  And recharging the water softener requires the installation of the plastic flow restriction tube in the pre-filter housing and the addition of table salt plus a couple of hours of fooling around with the whole setup.  All of which suggests that I was probably not in the mood to do chores today.

On my personal “to do” list was uploading more blog posts, editing the ITR Oasis Combi Installation article for Bus Conversion Magazine, and uploading it to my BCM Dropbox folder for proofreading.  Linda wanted to organize and store the music CDs we brought with us, and I wanted to get out the various accessories for my Sony a99v DSLT camera and get them working.  Those things were under the bed.

I want to refill our fresh water tank as close to our departure as possible so even though we still had over 1/3rd of a tank (40+ gallons) we decided to take showers at the laundry/bathroom building which includes shower stalls.  Linda walked down at 10:15 AM and I walked down at 10:40 AM when she got back.

The only bus chore I got done today was recharging the water softener, but that was an important one to get out of the way.  I started at 11:15 AM by fitting the filter holder with the flow restrictor tube and partially filling it with 26 oz. of table salt.  I connected a short hose to the output of the softener to direct the discharge water, ran a strong flow of water for 15 seconds to stir up and saturate the salt, and then reduced it to a trickle.  I tested it for saltiness and it seemed salty so I let it run for 90 minutes.

We had baby carrot slices, orange pepper slices, and apple slices with hummus for lunch around 12:45 PM.  At 1 PM I again ran a strong flow of water through the softener for 15 seconds and then returned it to a trickle for another 90 minutes.  At the end of that time I ran a strong flow for 30 seconds and then let it trickle for one more hour.  By 3:30 PM the discharge was no longer salty so I tested it and it indicated 1.5 grains per gallon, which is as low as I can usually get it.  (Only once did I get it down to zero.)  I probably let the water run longer than necessary but the only sure way to know the salt is used up is to remove the filter housing and check.  A clear housing would make it much easier to do this, and I intend to get one.

In the time it took to recharge the water softener I uploaded 13 blog posts for August 19th through August 31st, 2015.  That meant I had finally gained some small ground, having uploaded more posts (29) in December than I had written (22) up through yesterday.  I also spent a few minutes going through Butch’s edits of the draft BCM article on the installation of an ITR Oasis Combi diesel-fired hydronic heating system in their MCI MC-9 NJT motorcoach and incorporating changes.  I did not, however, have/take the time to move the photos inline with text and reformat it in two columns.  I plan to do that tomorrow and then upload it to my BCM Dropbox folder for proofreading.

We arranged to go to Satchel’s with John and Ali for dinner this evening and meet them there at 5 PM.  We left at 4 PM for the drive into Gainesville and stopped at the Walmart near the restaurant.  Linda needed a rolling pin and pastry mat and found both.  On the way back to our car we crossed paths with John and Ali in the parking lot.  It’s just far enough into town from the RV resort that we all try to be efficient by making trips multi-purpose.

It was our third visit to Satchel’s since we arrived in Williston and probably our final one for this winter unless we decide to return to this area for a while in March.  Ali does not care for Satchel’s pizza, specifically their sauce, but agreed to go anyway for our sake.  We had the same meal we always get; small salad, medium hand-tossed pizza with Daiya non-dairy mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, onions, and sun-dried tomatoes, and a vegan oatmeal raisin cookie for dessert plus a ginger soda for me, made in-house.

For our money it is one of the three or four best pizzas we have ever had, vegan or not, and clearly the best vegan pizza we have ever tasted.  We lingered and talked but eventually paid the bill and left.  In our case we needed to stop at the Publix supermarket on the way back to Williston for an assortment of things Linda needed for our Christmas day meals.

It was almost 8 PM when we got home.  We put the groceries away, turned on the TV, and watched several programs on PBS before going to bed.

 

2015/12/21 (M) John and Marian

Linda was up at 7 AM this morning and I got up at 7:30.  It was 66 degrees F in the coach so I turned on the Aqua-Hot diesel burner and turned up the thermostats.  I made our morning coffee and got to work finishing yesterday’s blog post.

John and Marian Hagan would be visiting this afternoon and staying for dinner.  Given the large meal we had for dinner last night we wanted to take it easy today so a little after 9 AM we had a light breakfast of grapefruit and English muffin with apricot preserves.  So good.

After breakfast Linda did some light cleaning.  I was going to do a load of laundry and recharge the water softener but Linda reminded me that I had decided to do all of those chores tomorrow.  Deal.  I started working on this post but eventually got dressed and settled in at my computer.  I spent the rest of the morning updating my BCM article status tracking Excel spreadsheet and uploaded it to our Dropbox.  I also cleaned up the organization of the files to match the status sheet and backed them up to the NAS.

As planned, we skipped lunch.  John had indicated they would arrive around 2 PM.  I asked him to call when they got to the office and he did.  I was going to drive up and escort him in but getting to our site is very straight forward so I just gave him the directions.  A few minutes later they pulled up and I got them parked next to our car, which Linda moved to one edge of the pad when she returned from Winn-Dixie this morning.

After giving John and Marian and tour of the interior remodeling project we spent most of the afternoon sitting outside.  Linda thought about using the induction cooker to make dinner outside and remain in the conversation but realized she needed two burners.  When it was time to prepare dinner Linda went inside and Marian went with her to help.

For dinner Linda made a salad and risotto with olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, and dark greens.  She bought a frozen vegan cheesecake at Earth Origins the other day and served that for dessert.  John and Marian brought a bottle of Barefoot Riesling wine and between Marian, Linda, and me we finished it.  That’s only 250 mL per person, so not really that much.

We eventually moved inside and continued our conversation over coffee.  John and Marian were members of our FMCA Freethinkers associate chapter until they bought a house in Dunnellon and sold their motorhome.  Since we saw them two years ago they have gotten more involved in the humanist group that meets at The Top of the World (an adult planned community) and joined the Unitarian Universalist church just south of Dunnellon, both of which have given them the opportunity to make new friends in the area.  They had a half hour drive to get home and left at 6:30 PM.

After cleaning up the dishes we watched TV and doodled on our iPads.  I probably should have worked at my computer but did not feel like it.  I did check my e-mail and had a reply from Butch with his edits for the BCM article on the ITR Oasis Combi Installation he did last fall (2014) in their MCI MC-9 NJT motorcoach.  I also looked at, and commented on, several posts/comments on RVillage.  Linda was off to bed at 11 PM and I was tucked in with the lights off by 11:30.

 

2015/12/15 (T) Blog Uploads (finally)

The temperature at midnight was a little warmer than we like for sleeping but still OK.  The humidity was high, however, and everything felt slightly damp.  There was a high likelihood of rain before sunrise but we left the windows and roof vents open and all three exhaust fans running.  We have air conditioners but they are noisy and use a lot of electricity so we do not use them unless we have to.  Mostly, however, we like fresh air and tend to resist closing up the coach.

We were both asleep by 11:30 PM last night and I was up a 6:50 AM this morning.  I fed the cats and then watched a TV program on WUFT’s Create channel called Florida Crossroads.  It was on Florida’s Black Heritage Trail and featured some of the off-the-beaten-path museums and historically black communities in the state.  As the program pointed out at the beginning “If you head down I-75 to Disney World and other Florida attractions you won’t see these places.”  We do not have any plans to follow this trail but the show reminded me that every state has a history that is preserved in out-of-the-way places and it takes time and desire to seek them out.

Linda got up about half way through the programs so I watched the last 15 minutes of the show and then turned off the TV.  The rain increased from a light drizzle to a light rain and Linda pulled up the weather radar on her iPad.  Moisture was streaming northeast from the Gulf in our general direction so I closed the ceiling vent/fan in the bedroom.  It is over the foot of the bed so if water gets in the bedding gets wet.  I left the other two vent/fans open and exhausting on medium speed as no water seemed to be coming in.  They are both directly above vinyl tile flooring so if water did get in it would be easy to clean up.

I made a very full pot of coffee, using up the last of our first batch of Sweet Seattle Dreams beans (Seattle Blend and Sweet Dreams decaf blend, both from Teeko’s Coffee and Tea back home).  The Kindle edition of Dr. Michael Greger’s new book, How Not to Die, was available so Linda initiated downloading it to our various devices.  We both opened the Kindle apps on our iPads and finished downloading it to our devices.

We had English muffins and split a grapefruit for breakfast.  Once we were dressed and the kitchen was cleaned up Linda packed up Madeline’s Christmas stocking, took it to the Post Office, and mailed it.  While she was there she bought holiday stamps including the postage needed to get our Year in Review holiday letter to friends in Ontario.

With the Habitat For Humanity and Webasto Burner Service articles wrapped up (for now) I felt like taking a break from computer-based work but there was too much that still needed to be done.  At the top of the list was finalizing plans to get together with Bruce and Linda, John and Marian, and Al this week or next.  That was all being done by e-mail so it was spread out through the day but I eventually got the visits planned.

I need to work on the FMCA FTH and GLCC websites, and at some point I need to start writing, or at least outlining, new articles based on the work we did to the interior of our motorcoach this past summer and fall.  But the task rising to the top of my list is the blog, now over four months behind.  First, however, I installed the Twenty Sixteen WordPress Theme on our personal site (this one) just to have a look.  It’s a nice, clean, blog oriented theme, with features that make it more responsive with respect to sizing images on different devices but I did not switch the site over at this time.

I spent the rest of the morning copying blog post drafts from e-mails to Word docs and then editing the ones from August to get them ready to upload.  I was able to upload posts for August 3 through 8, including a gallery post of the refrigerator swap at Chuck’s shop on the 8th.  I spent the rest of the day selecting and processing photos for the rest of August.

Our storage ottoman was scheduled for delivery by 8 PM last night but the office closed at 5 PM and it wasn’t here by then.  Amazon notified us that it was delivered today so Linda retrieved it from the office when she made a quick trip to the Grocery Depot for ingredients to make polenta for dinner.

With more light rain forecast for this evening we went for a late afternoon walk.  We got to the northwest corner of the resort and were hailed by Elliot and Jamie who we met at the campfire on Saturday evening.  This is their first winter at Williston Crossings and they are enjoying it, especially the variety and frequency of available activities.  We started to get a few raindrops while we were chatting with them and headed back to the rig at a quick pace.  It was misting by the time we got there but we did not get very wet.

Linda started working on dinner by making the polenta and putting it in the refrigerator to firm up.  I turned on the TV for background noise and doodled on my iPad.  Linda set out our salads and then we had a 20 minute break before the polenta was ready.  She served it with Puttanesca sauce that included cayenne pepper and had a nice kick.  After dinner we watched our usual Tuesday evening TV programs, all of them season finales, and then went to bed.

 

2015/12/14 (M) Christmas Stocking

I was up just before 7 AM to feed the cats, who were crying rather than using their usual technique of circling the mattress, and decided to just stay up.  I tried connecting my iPad to one of the nearby RV resort Wi-Fi access points but was still unable to connect to the Internet.  I tried to connect our WiFi Ranger to the access point but it was unable to acquire an IP address.  I turned on our Verizon Mi-Fi, connected the Wi-Fi Ranger to it, and started up my computer.  Linda was also up by this time and played a few word games on her iPad while I made coffee.

It was heavily overcast, but not foggy, and the sky glowed briefly with the rising sun before turning to a muted gray.  It was 71 degrees F outside, as dense cloud cover had prevented the temperature from dropping overnight, and 78 inside.  We left windows and the roof vents open last night with the bathroom exhaust fan on, so we had airflow but the humidity was higher than we like.  Still, we slept OK.

We had granola for breakfast.  After breakfast Linda drove to the Publix at the southwest corner of Gainesville to buy groceries.  I updated the other three WordPress websites that I manage and then got back to work on the HFH article for BCM which I did not finish yesterday.

I finished selecting and inserting photos for Part 2 of the article.  I then selected and organized the remaining photos for the digital edition Bonus Content sections for Part 1 and Part 2.  The penultimate step was to upload all of this to our Dropbox in a way that reflected the two-part organization of the article.  The final step was to e-mail Gary and let him know it was done.  Unfortunately this is at least the third time I have been “done” with this article so I won’t know if I am really, finally done until I see it in print.

We had a mock turkey sandwich for lunch and split an apple.  After lunch I sent e-mails to three friends who live south of our RV resort to try and arrange get-togethers before we leave at the end of the month.  I heard back from Bruce and Linda Whitney (really) right away.  They are members of our ham radio club back home and are in the process of relocating to their new home near Brooksville, Florida.  We agreed to get together this coming Sunday.  I eventually heard back from John and Marian Hogan and they were also interested in getting together.  By dinner time I had not heard back from Al Hesselbart, but I will.

Linda finished the needlepoint part of her project and walked to the sewing room by the office where she was able to use one of the sewing machines to attach the needlepoint matrix to a piece of white felt to make Madeline’s holiday stocking.  Our Verizon Mi-Fi had shut down when the battery drained so I plugged it in to recharge it.  I tried connecting our WiFi Ranger to the RV resort Wi-Fi and this time it worked.  There was obviously a problem with the system and it took until this afternoon for the office to get a technician out to fix it.

Gary Hatt at BCM had Kathy proofread the draft of my article on servicing the Webasto burner in our Aqua-Hot and sent it back to me.  I accepted all of her edits except one and then reformatted the article in two columns with the photos for the print edition inserted in-line.  I uploaded it to our Dropbox and e-mailed Gary.

We had both spent a long day mostly sitting so we went for a long stroll around the RV resort.  When we got back to the coach Linda started preparing dinner.  She added Halo orange slices to the salad, which included dried cranberries, walnuts, and sun-dried tomato dressing.  Yum.  The main course was couscous and black beans with corn, onion, and garlic.  Double yum.  We went for another walk after dinner.

When we got back we settled in to watch our usual Monday night TV programs and had a small glass of wine.

 

2015/12/11 (F) Naked Grape

We were both up at 7:45 AM but the cats were active long before that.  Besides their usual jumping on and off the bed they were unusually frisky and spent quite some time chasing each other back and forth the full length of the coach, often taking flying leaps onto the bed.  I fed them and Linda cleaned their litter tray after which I made coffee and she made oatmeal for our breakfast.  While we finished our coffee Linda played word games on her iPad and I put the finishing touches on yesterday’s post, e-mailed it to myself, and started working on today’s post.

My sister called at 9:30 AM and we talked for about 30 minutes.  When we were done I got dressed and gathered up the first load of laundry, drove it down to the laundry room, loaded the washing machine, and started it.  I then drove to the NAPA store to get the E-clips for the awning window lever pins.  This time they had them.  I ordered 12 but they came in bags of 20 and were cheaper per piece in that quantity.  There are 16 of these clips securing the lever arms for the eight awning style windows, so I bought the whole bag.  I also bought some J-B Weld that I plan to use to repair the broken weld on one of the passenger side living room window latches.

When I got back to the coach I gathered up the second load of laundry, which included the bed sheets and pillow cases, and drove it down to the laundry room.  The first load was done so I loaded it in the dryer and then put the second load in the washer.  I returned to the coach for 25 minutes and then went back to put the second load in the dryer.  It took several more trips to get all of the laundry in/out of washers and dryers, put in on hangers or fold it, and get it back to the coach.

For lunch we split a mock turkey sandwich with lots of greens, a tangerine, and a pear.  It was like a salad on a bun.  I had a text from my sister asking me to call a social worker at a different medical center and let her know that Patty would call her back later in the afternoon.  After lunch I called Amy and left a message.  Amy called me back and we chatted briefly.  Presumably she also talked to Patty later in the day.

Linda resumed work on her counted cross-stitch project and suggested that I select a bottle of wine for this evening and put it in the refrigerator.  None of the wines we had struck my fancy so I drove to the Grocery Depot and bought a 3L box of Naked Grape Moscato.  We received notifications from Amazon that two packages had been delivered so I stopped in the office on the way back and picked them up.  One was the two bath mats for the bathroom and the other one was our 8.5×14 brochure paper for our holiday letter. I put the box of wine in the fridge when I got back to the coach.

I finished the 2-column formatting of Part 1 of my 2-part BCM article titled What To Do With Your Bus:  Building with Habitat For Humanity and e-mailed it off to Gary, the publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine.  By the time I finished going through e-mails it was 3 PM and had gotten warm in the coach, even with the windows open and the roof vent fans running.  I laid down on the sofa and took a nap for a couple of hours.

When I finally got up from my nap the sun was low in the southwest sky and it had cooled off just a bit so we both sat outside with our iPads for a while.  It was a beautiful day today with clear skies and a warm sun and highs in the mid-70s.  Today is Friday, which means we gather at the fire circle at 7 PM for fellowship and music, so we had dinner at 6 PM, earlier than usual.  Linda made a nice green salad, as she does most evenings, with walnuts, raisins, and dried cranberries.  She reheated the leftover seitan stroganoff and heated some frozen broccoli.  She rarely uses frozen ingredients, but they are always handy to have around for a quicker, easier to prepare, meal.

Linda opened the box of Naked Grape Moscato wine and filled a small coffee thermos.  She put the thermos and our two plastic wine gasses in our wine tote and we walked down to the firepit.  We took the recyclables with us as the bins are just beyond the firepit.  When we got there at 6:40 PM John already had the fire going but no one else had arrived.  We like to get there early so we can sit near John and Ali.

As was the case two years ago I ended up tending the fire.  Not that I mind; I am actually pretty good at it, but the available firewood at the moment is not good.  It is very heavy for its size and I suspect it is not very dry.  I convinced John that we should leave the natural gas on under the logs.  Normally the gas is only used to start the fire but leaving it on, even on low flame, seemed to help reduce the amount of smoke.  I also used some of the scrap construction lumber which was very dry and burned hot and clean.

We stayed at the fire until 10 PM and enjoyed John’s guitar playing, singing along, and conversation.  Around 9:30 he got a call from a couple who had just arrived at the gate and he had to leave to escort them to their site.  They had been delayed by a traffic jam that resulted from an accident.  Every RVer who has been on the road for more than a few months has experienced this.  As was the case last weekend it was just the two of us with John and Ali at the end.  We would have stayed longer, as I had a small but nice fire burning, but John had to close up the resort buildings and check the gates and Ali was starting to get cold.  I turned off the gas, spread out the logs, and we headed home.

When we got back to our coach we turned on the TV and doodled on our iPads for a while before going to bed.  Linda inadvertently locked Juniper in the bathroom closet but after hearing an unusual thumping sound several times, and not seeing her anywhere, I investigated and found her.  She likes to climb in the closets and get behind things, and was actually reluctant to come out, but she finally did and ended up in bed with us and the other cat, as is the case almost every night.

 

2015/12/10 (R) Reworking Articles

I got up at 8 AM this morning, fed the cats, and made a pot of coffee.  Linda was up by the time the coffee was brewed and we enjoyed our first cup before having breakfast.

Linda has been in holiday shopping mode and ordered a 250 sheet pack of 8.5×14 brochure paper for our holiday letter.  The paper is 38# double-sided coated color laser printer.  It is made for quad-panel (three folds) brochures and is scored every 3.5 inches so it folds into an 8.5”x3.5” finished size.  Using the front and back it has eight panels.  The current layout of our letter takes two full 8.5×14 sheets so it should use all eight panels.

At 9:30 AM we had granola with fresh berries for breakfast.  Linda opened a new bag, transferred it to the plastic container, and put a piece of Frog a Tape on it so she can tally the servings.  She wants to know how many servings we get from each batch so she can better estimate how much to make to take with us next winter.  The real limitation is the size of the new freezer.

After breakfast Linda settled in to work on Madeline’s holiday stocking and I walked to the NAPA store to get the E-clips for the window lever pins.  The local NAPA store ordered them yesterday from two different places but neither order came in.  They reordered them from Jacksonville and said they would be in in the morning.

When I got back to the coach I revisited our holiday letter and adjusted the layout so the photos and captions would fit on the 3.5″ panels and not fall on the folds.  I had to shrink the photos slightly to get two of them side by side and I had to shrink the panoramas even more.  I also modified the captions to make better use of the space, moving the location to the top line with the date and leaving more room for the description underneath.  As a result of those changes the layout only used six of the eight panels so I will have to add photos or figure out how to enlarge some of the existing ones to fill out the space.

Somewhere in the middle of all this we took a lunch break at 1 PM.  Linda made vegan grilled cheese sandwiches and sliced an apple in half.  Simple but delicious.

I had a call from my sister and spoke with her for a while about our dad.  Later I called the social worker at the hospital and she called me back a short time later.  I then called our attorney’s office but did not get an answer, so I contacted him by e-mail.  I got a call back from him not long after and was able to expand on the reason for my call.

I e-mailed Brenda Phelan about the Arcadia Rally at the end of the month and dealt with e-mail correspondence from Gary at BCM.  He wanted to pull Part 1 of my 2-part article on Habitat for Humanity (HFH) up to the January 2016 issue to plug an unexpected hole and needed me to do some urgent last minute work on it to get it ready for Jorge to lay out.  This sort of thing happens all too often, but I agreed to work on it this evening.  Truth be told it wasn’t as big a request as he thought it was and I don’t mind helping him out if I can.

The temperature got up to 77 degrees F today with partly cloudy skies but by 4 PM the sun was low in the southwest sky and it was starting to cool off.  We both needed to get off our butts and move around so we went for a walk through the resort.  We ran into John using his electric motor bicycle to escort someone to their site.  As he passed by he said we had a package in the office so we altered our walking route to go there and retrieve it.

It was one of several packages we are expecting from Amazon and had supplies Linda needed to continue working on her counted cross-stitch project.  We stopped and talked to Jeff and Kathy briefly, dropped the package back at our rig, and walked part of the newer/north end of the resort.  It was still pleasant outside when we got back to the rig so we sat outside with our iPads and had a few peanut butter pretzels as a snack.

By 5 PM the sun was below our horizon, which consists of RVs to our southwest.  There was still plenty of daylight but by 5:30 it was fading and cooling off fast.  I finally went inside and started working on the HFH article for BCM.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and reheated the leftover pizza from last night’s dinner.  It was just as good as last night, maybe better.  I continued working on the article after dinner and watched our Thursday evening TV programs out of the corner of my eye.  By 9:30 PM I had spent all the time I cared to in front of my computer but was not done with the article.  Moving photos around is time consuming and a bit tedious.  I like to stay productive, so I switched to my iPad to work on this post.  Yeah, it’s still a screen, but I interact with it differently and have more options as to where and how I sit.  We were up until 11 PM but fell asleep quickly once we got to bed.

 

2015/12/09 (W) Return to Satchel’s

I was up at 7 AM.  It was 66 in the coach; cool but tolerable.  I put on my sweats, fed the cats, and cleaned their litter tray, but did not turn on the heaters.  Linda was up by 7:15.  I made coffee and we delayed breakfast until later.  We are going to Satchel’s for dinner with John and Ali this evening so we decided to have brunch instead of breakfast and lunch.  Satchel’s has some of the best vegan pizza we have ever had, including a choice of vegan cheeses, so it will be a big meal for us.

Linda used her iPad to do some holiday shopping.  I checked my e-mail and was then going to play a few games on my iPad but the iOS 9.2 update was available so I started the installation process and set it aside.  Once the updated OS was installed I had five app updates available so I initiated those, one at a time, and started working on this post.  The updates downloaded fast enough to be reasonable.  Either the Resort has made significant improvements in the Wi-Fi and Internet connection bandwidths or very few people are using the system at the moment, or both.

I got the BCM boxes out from under the bed and integrated in the issues I received on Monday.  Everything was there so the three sets of issues are ready to give out as door prizes in at the Arcadia Rally 2016.  I worked on the photo tips article for BCM for a while and then decided to do some more work on the BCM page on our website.  I had a detailed e-mail from Gary at BCM with suggestions, and I find it easier to use that kind of information when it is printed out, but when I tried to print it my computer said the printer was offline.  The printer display said it was “Ready” so I had a problem to investigate and resolve.

This was the first time we tried to use the HP Color LaserJet 3600 printer since we put it on board the bus and it was the first time we had connected it via the Amped|Wireless SR20000G network extender / router.  I had expected it to plug-and-play as this trip was also the first time we have used the newer/larger NAS on the bus with this particular router and it worked without me having to do anything to configure it.

I downloaded an updated version of Advanced IP Scanner and ran it.  It could not find the printer and claimed that both of our computers and the NAS were “dead” connections, even though they were communicating with each other and the Internet.  All of the evidence suggested that the problem was somehow related to network addresses.  I went into the printer configuration menu via the front panel and changed two settings, turning on IP Release and IP Renew.  I turned the printer off and back on but that did not cause it to connect.

I went in and out of the control panel in my computer looking at the various screens related to devices and drivers, specifically printers.  I also went into the web interface for the SR20000G where some settings and context dependent help screens caught my attention.  In particular, the SR20000G appeared to be set up as a DHCP client rather than a server and the help screen suggested that it was getting IP addresses from the primary router, i.e., the one connecting our “home” network to the Internet.  In our motorcoach, that is our Wi-Fi Ranger, and the Wi-Fi Ranger operates on a different range of locally routed IP addresses (10.139.1.nnn) than most home networks (192.168.17.nnn).  I opened the Advanced IP Scanner again and figured out how to get it to scan the local address range served by the Wi-Fi Ranger and voilà, there was the printer, the NAS, our computers, and the SR2000G.

The final step was to revisit something that caught my eye earlier.  In the printer driver configuration there is a Port screen and the printer was configured with a Standard TCP/IP Port in the 192.168.1.nnn range.  I created one in the 10.139.17.nnn range to match the address that Advanced IP Scanner indicated had been assigned to the printer.  I tried printing a printer test page and voilà (again) I heard the familiar sound of the printer indexing a sheet of paper and shortly thereafter had the test page in my hands.  I went into my e-mail and printed the one from Gary.  This was not what I expected to be doing today but it was satisfying to get it resolved and not have it take any longer than I did to get it done.

One of our tasks for today was reinstalling the awning style window in the living room.  I happened to notice this morning that one of the lever pins on the other driver side window was coming out, indicating that the C-clip was missing.  Closer examination revealed that the lever pins on the four windows we had repaired in April 2014 were all reinstalled with pins put in backwards.

I took a break from my other work at 1 PM and drove to the local NAPA store to buy new C-clips.  The clerk at the store had a kit of clips and a paper template for matching style and sizes.  He said our existing clips are actually E-clips, not C-clips, and the size I needed was a 1007.  He did not have any in stock but ordered them from another store and said they would be in at 4 PM.  We would be on our way to dinner by then so I indicated I would pick them up in the morning.

Back at the motorcoach John stopped by to let us know that he and Ali were going to do some shopping before dinner and to figure out a time to meet us at the restaurant.  We agreed on 5 PM.  As long as he was here I gave him the bag of Fire Ant Killer I bought for him on Monday.

We decided that we would also do some shopping before dinner.  We left at 3:15 PM and headed up FL-121 towards Gainesville.  When we got to I-75 we headed north to the next exit at Archer Road (FL-24) and made our way slowly through the traffic, into the outdoor mega-mall, and to Walmart.  We needed a small hassock (that would double as a storage cube), a small table (that we could put between the two captains chairs), a non-slip shelf liner (to put under the printer), a seat cushion (for the card table chair at the desk), a small mat (to put on the floor outside the shower to catch cat litter), batteries (for our bathroom scale), and high quality 8.5×14 paper (to print our holiday letter).  We found all of those items except the last one, but did not buy the hassock as the store only had them in gray.  We then worked our way to the Office Max store at the center of the mall.  They only had one (open) ream of 8.5×14 paper and it was regular copy paper.  Useless for our needs.

We put the address of Satchel’s pizzeria/restaurant into the GPS and worked our way over to the east side of town through rush hour traffic.  We pulled into the restaurant parking lot at 4:41 PM just as John and Ali were stepping out of their Tahoe two spots down.  Satchel’s is a very popular place but at quarter to five it was mostly empty.  It was a lovely late afternoon but the sun was already setting and the air would being cooling off quickly so we asked for an inside booth, which also happen to have padded seats.

We started with a small salad that was still big enough to share with Ali and John.  They had pizza slices but we ordered a medium (13″) pizza with Daiya mozzarella cheese, onions, mushrooms, and sun-dried tomatoes.  Soooo good.  John and Ali split a bottle of Cabernet, Linda had water, and I had ginger ale.  Satchel’s makes their own soda pop and it is very tasty (but contains sugar).

By the time we left the restaurant at 6 PM it was full of people, inside and out, and the noise level had risen to where Linda and Ali were starting to have difficulty with conversation.  We settled our bill and went on our way.  John and Ali had more shopping to do but we headed straight for Williston.  As we were approaching the intersection at I-75 I noticed that I was getting low on fuel.  I probably could have made it to Williston, but why chance running out of gas.  There are five filling stations near this intersection but the Mobil station was the first one on the right so I pulled in.  A few minutes later we were on our way again and we arrived back at our motorcoach at 7 PM.

I put the cushion on the desk chair while Linda put the placemat in the bathroom.  We opened the folding table and adjusted the height so the cats’ scratching post just fit under it and put it in place between the two captains chairs.  Having a table in that spot has been the plan from the beginning of the remodeling.  Although the folding table is temporary, it immediately increased the functionality of the interior.  It also allowed us to better visualize how the living room will look/feel when we finally install the permanent table.

Linda spent much of the rest of the evening shopping for holiday gifts and domestic necessities on Amazon.  She got presents ordered for everyone except her sister, with all of them being drop shipped directly to the recipients.  She also ordered a 15″x15″ brown storage hassock and a pair of washable floor towels (for the bathroom).  We definitely get our money’s worth out of Amazon Prime.

 

2015/12/08 (T) Hudson and Back

The outside air temperature dropped into the 40’s last night.  I closed the roof vents before turning in but we left the windows open a bit.  It was 61 degrees F in the kitchen when I got up at 8 AM so I turned on the Aqua-Hot, turned up all three thermostats, and turned on the front electric toekick heater.  I fed the cats and then made our morning coffee.  Linda got up around 8:20.  After our first cup of coffee we had granola for breakfast.  When the temperature in the coach reached 70 I turned off the thermostats and the electric heater and shut off the Aqua-Hot diesel burner.  (The electric heating element in the Aqua-Hot stays on whenever we are plugged in and living in the coach.)

I called Suncoast Designers and talked to Donna.  She talked to the technician and reported back that the bus window would be ready for pickup at 3 PM.  The office closes at 3:45 PM, so I would need to be there close to 3 to get it and settle the bill.

I found my water usage spreadsheet, which I last updated on April 19 of this year, and edited it to include the dump and fill activity since then.  I had to go back to my blog posts from late April to confirm just what I had done and when I had done it.  I checked my most recent post drafts and discovered that I had not made mention of dumping here at WCRVR.  Linda and I agreed that it was not the day we got here and not the following day so I recorded it as the 3rd.  Since there had been large time gaps in our use of the coach, and I had dumped the fresh water tank and refilled it the day before Thanksgiving, I had to reset the spreadsheet to known starting points.

After entering the missing data I determined that, with two people living in the coach, we continue to use fresh water at the rate of approximately 12 gallons per day and fill the waste tanks at the rate of approximately 12 gallons per day; five for the black tank and seven for the gray tank.  With 120 gallons of fresh water that means we can boondock for about 10 days, during which time we would use up the 120 gallons of fresh water and add roughly the same number of gallons to the two waste tanks, 50 to the 80 gallon black tank, and 70 to the 120 gallon gray tank.  I also determined that we have used about half the capacity of the water softener.

The numbers for the waste tanks are very rough as our tank level monitors do not work and I cannot see the levels in the tanks, even though they are translucent white plastic, as they are hidden behind “beauty panels.”  Still, I think my estimates are reasonable.  Given the 3:4 ratio of fresh:waste tank capacity I am inclined to redo the water bay next spring as a 300 gallon, 2-tank, system replacing the current 330 gallons of combined tank capacity (125 fresh, 125 gray, 80 black).  I could reuse the current 125 gallon fresh tank but I would probably replace it with one of a different shape to make room for the water softener and filters to be built in and to relocate the fresh water pump to the driver side floor at the level of the bottom of the fresh water tank.

At current usage rates a 125 gallon fresh water tank and a single 175 gallon waste tank would, hypothetically, allow us to boondock for 13 days, running out of fresh water just as our waste tank reached capacity.  We might be able to stay out longer if we could reduce fresh water usage and waste generation proportionally.  In practice, however, we would probably not go more than 13 to 14 days and only then if the new tank monitors worked accurately.  Still, that would allow us to stay out two full weeks before we had to dump and fill, which seems like a good amount of time.

The other benefits of reconfiguring the tanks in the utility bay include slightly different tank shapes that would create some space for the water softener and filters and provide access to the tanks for servicing and monitoring.  It would also allow me to install rotating spray heads for the waste tank and drain it through the macerator pump, allowing use to “dump” our tanks at our house or anywhere we could get a garden hose into a waste drain.  We might even gain space, or access to space that is already there, to store drain hoses, and other utilities-related things, in the bay.  I would, for instance, love to have a shorepower reel but I do not think I can create that kind of space without making the tanks too small.

What we would lose in the redo is a separate gray tank that could, hypothetically, be drained onto the ground in some places.  The number of places where that is legal, however, is too small (in my opinion) to justify keeping that capability.  The other main argument for keeping separate black and gray waste water tanks is that the contents of the gray tank can be used to flush the drain hose out after first dumping the contents of the black tank.  Indeed, some bus converters set up their waste tanks with the gray tank above the black tank and plumb them so that the gray tank can be drained into the black tank to help flush it out, or drained directly (which leaves open the option of draining it in on the ground).

We heard another interesting take on water management for boondocking at a seminar in August 2012 at the FMCA national rally in Madison, WI.  The presenter described his system, which involved three tanks, fresh, gray, and black.  His twist on this was that he ran the gray water through a filter (or set of filters) and then used it to flush the toilet.  The advantage is that all of the fresh water becomes available for gray water use, i.e., cooking and cleaning.  As an example, consider a setup (such as we might have in our bus conversion) with a 150 gallon fresh water tank, a 100 gallon gray tank, and a 50 gallon black tank. Since the first 50 gallons that go into the gray tank will potentially end up in the black tank the entire 150 gallons of fresh water can ultimately end up in the 100 gallon gray tank.  With careful management of water usage, that could really extend the amount of time the rig can be used without hookups.  These tanks could be sized differently, larger waste and smaller fresh, if you had a fresh water bladder that could be used to retrieve additional fresh water and refill the tank without moving the RV.  Lot’s of interesting possibilities, all of which involve engineering design tradeoffs.

I opened the box of BCM back issues that arrived yesterday and went through them.  There were two of each issue but I won’t know if they are all there until I can integrate them into the partial sets I brought from home.  Those sets were under the bed and there was a cat on the bed so retrieving them would have to wait until later.  I worked on this post for a while instead and stopped at noon to have lunch.  Linda made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and sliced an apple.  Simple but delicious.

I looked through the articles in my BCM “in process” folder and opened the one on tips for taking photographs to see how complete it was.  While not finished, the article was much more than an outline.  I spent about 20 minutes reviewing what I already had and doing some additional editing but did not feel like digging into in it.

I left at 1 PM for Hudson, taking the same route I took yesterday, and arrived at 2:45 PM.  I was 15 minutes early but the window was done.  There was no charge for the repair, which I appreciated, as the seal failed not long after the window was originally fixed in April 2014.  The technician wanted the window to stay horizontal for at least another day, supported by its frame, before being reinstalled in the bus.  Because the back of the car was full and could not be rearranged I moved the passenger seat all the way forward and leaned the seat back as far as it would go.  I used the blanket to plug the gap between the front edge of the seat and dashboard and set the window in place, outside up, with one short edge on the blanket and the other one on the seatback.  It traveled very well that way on the drive home and I decided it was safer to leave it there than setting it out on the picnic table overnight.  I got back to the rig around 5 PM even though I stopped twice, once for popcorn at Rural King, and then at McDonald’s for a diet pop.

Linda made seitan vegan stroganoff for dinner which we enjoyed with a glass of Mimbres Red table wine from St. Clair Winery in Deming, New Mexico.  In retrospect we should have bought more bottles while we were there.  Every wine we bought from them was a red and very much to our liking, especially mine, which is unusual.

We had both spent most of the day sitting on our butts (not our hands) and went for a brisk stroll after dinner.  We watched a few TV programs, went to bed at 10:30, and finished watching Rick Steves’ Europe before turning out the lights.

 

2015/12/07 (M) Not on Vacation

I set my iPad alarm clock last night for 5:30 AM.  As soon as the alarm went off Jasper got up next to me on the outside edge of my side of the bed, snuggled in by chest, and wanted to be petted at great length.  I obliged him for as long as I could and was rewarded with his loud, resonant purring, which I could feel as much as hear.  I still managed to get out of bed by 5:45, feed the cats, get dressed, and be on my way by 6:08.

It’s only 75 miles from Williston to Suncoast Designers in Hudson, but the first few miles were a slow roll through the RV resort to the front gate followed by the short trip through downtown with a 35 MPH speed limit and several stop lights.  After a short distance on US-41 south I picked up FL-115 heading west.  A few miles past the airport it made a large sweeping turn to the south and continued on that heading for about 17 miles at 60 MPH until it joined up with to US-19.  I continued south on US-19 at 65 MPH for another 20 miles.  At that point it felt like I was making good time but I knew what was ahead as I had driven this route several times when we were here in 2014.

US-19 gets closer to the Gulf of Mexico the farther south you go, and with that closeness comes an increasing presence of people.  The first population center I came to was the charming little “Suncoast” town of Crystal River, followed by Ingless, Homosassa Springs, Weeki Wachi, and then finally Hudson.  These towns all have much lower speed limits and stop lights, and they get larger and closer together the farther south you go.  The side of the road changes from forest and farm to intermittent small businesses, then continuous shall businesses, and then suburban commerce that extends back from the main road until you reach Hudson which is a far northern suburb in the greater Tampa / St. Petersburg metropolitan area.  From Weeki Wachi on south US-19 is six lanes with a median, is lined with commercial properties, and has lots of traffic.

I arrived at Suncoast Designers a little before 8 AM so the trip took about an hour and 45 minutes.  I checked in at the office and they had someone meet me at the factory door to take the window and label it with my name.  We had this thermopane window repaired in April 2014 but the new seal did not hold.  Getting it repaired was one of our reasons for returning to Florida this winter.  Not the main reason, of course, but a factor in our decision.  I was back in my car and on the way home by 8:20 AM.  I will have to come back tomorrow to pick it up.

On the drive down I spotted a Dunkin Donuts about 10 miles north of Hudson on the west side of US-19 so I stopped there on the way back for a large coffee.  I had also seen quite a few filling stations between Crystal River and Hudson, many of them Shell stations, so I picked one that had easy access and regular gasoline (10% Ethanol) for $2.03 per gallon, cash or credit.

I remembered seeing an Office Max and pulled in when I spotted it.  By now it was well after 9 AM and businesses were open.  They had several different weights of expensive color laser photo paper but nothing like that in 8.5×14 (legal) size.  I did not need to have the paper today so I did not buy any.  I really do not want to redo our Holiday Letter for 8.5×11 paper so I will check online and see what I can get.  There was a Rural King at the same mall complex as the Office Max so I bought two bags of Spectracide Fire Ant Killer.  I also got a bag of free popcorn, which is available at all Rural King stores.  More places should do that, I think.

It was going on 11 AM by the time I got back to the coach.  Linda had been up since 7 AM and was ready to set her cross-stitch project aside and go for a walk.  I had been sitting for the better part of five hours so that sounded good to me.  We went for a vigorous stroll through the resort and arrived back at our coach ready for lunch.  Linda heated up a couple of vegan hot dogs and served them on the large whole wheat buns with mustard and relish.

After lunch I installed updates on the FMCA Freethinkers chapter website, the FMCA GLCC chapter website, and our personal website.  I then took snapshots in Adobe Reader CC of the covers of the BCM issues for July through December 2015, post-processed the covers, and uploaded them to the BCM page on our website along with brief descriptions of my articles that appeared in each issue.  I finished inserting photos into the OASIS Combi article I’ve been working on for BCM and will upload it to our Dropbox and e-mail Butch this evening.

It was a gorgeous day so we sat outside for a while and I worked on this post.  That is one of the things I really like about my iPad.  An earlier e-mail from Gary indicated that my package was out for delivery today.  I was about to get in my car and drive to the office when Joe and Teresa from Brighton, Michigan stopped in their golf cart to chat.  When they went on their way I dropped off the recyclables on my way to the office, picked up the box of magazines (which was heavy), and returned to the coach.

I worked some more on this post on my iPad but by 5:30 PM I had been up for 12 hours on too little sleep so I took a nap until 6:15 PM when Linda woke me up to have dinner.  For dinner Linda made a green salad with fresh blueberries and strawberries and made black bean smothered sweet potatoes.  Besides the black beans, the topping had tomatoes, scallions, cumin, and coriander and was finished off with a dollop of vegan sour cream.  Yum, yum, yum.

We watched the PBS NewsHour, another thing we typically never do, but then we do a lot of things differently when we are away from home.  We then watched our usual Monday night TV programs on CBS.  Even when we are away some things don’t change.  We are not “on vacation” after all.  We don’t go on vacation to get bus windows repaired.  In fact, we no longer go on vacation, we simply blend new experiences into our everyday lives.  Such is the nature of retirement as extended-time RVers in a converted bus.

 

2015/12/06 (N) Multiple Threads

I got out of bed at 8 AM, fed the cats, refreshed their water, and cleaned their litter tray.  I made some hot soapy water for dishes and then measured out and ground our morning coffee beans.  Once I had the coffee brewing I cleaned the grinder, which I had not done in a while.

Linda got up around 8:30 and we both sat with our iPads and enjoyed our first cup of coffee.  I had a reply to the e-mail I sent our son last night and replied back.  I also sent the photo I created on Thursday to him and our daughter.  It is a 3-image panorama looking north out of our passenger side living room window of our motorcoach.

At 9:30 Linda started making pancakes, which has become something of a regular treat for our Sunday breakfast.  I got a call from my sister at 10 letting me know she was heading to the hospital where our dad is in the ICU.  We finished our coffee around 10:30 and got dressed.  Linda settled in to work on her counted cross-stitch project and I checked our fresh water tank.  The level was finally below 1/3 on the monitor so I decided to test the park water.  As I expected, based on our previous time here, the hardness was at the maximum on the test strip so I got the water softener out and connected it to the supply valve.  The quick disconnect, while a nice idea, is made of plastic.  It was finally worn to the point where it would not seal so I unthreaded it from the pressure regulator and put it back in the fresh water tub where it joined a dozen other components that I should throw away.  Someday.

I have read in multiple publications and blogs that the RV sewer hose, and especially the bayonet connectors used on RV sewer hoses, is the weakest component on an RV, both by design and manufacture.  While these components may be in contention for that status, I submit that the garden hose fittings that are universally used for the fresh water connections may actually be the worst.  My fresh water connections always leak even when I tighten them (gently) with a wrench.  My sewer connections do not generally leak.

But I have digressed once again.  When I had the softener connected I tested the output and it appeared to be fully charged so I connected it to the inlet of the coach and refilled the fresh water tank.  In Quartzsite, Arizona this past winter I kept track of the details of when I dumped and filled tanks, including the hardness was of the water coming out of the softener before and after each fill.  This data served two purposes.

One purpose was to compensate for our waste tank level monitors, which do not work.  We were trying to determine the rate at which we were filling them so we could calibrate how long we could reasonably boondock before we had to dump them.  That turned out to be about nine days, conservatively, which is how long we went before hooked up here and dumped.

 

Because the water softener can only remove a certain number of grains of hardness before it is exhausted the number of gallons it can soften before it has to be recharged depends on the hardness of the water coming in.  At 25 grains of hardness per gallon, which is what we had in Q and what we have here in Williston, the softener, which has a capacity of about 10,000 grains, can process about 400 gallons.  If the hardness is higher than 25 gpg we will not be able to process that many gallons.  400 gallons is about four refills if I refill it when the level is down to 1/6 (20 gallons).  Our usage data from Q indicated that we used about 9 gallons per person per day on average (18 gallons per day) and that I was filling the tank every 5 to 6 days and recharging it every three weeks.

While setting up the water softener I noticed an active nest of red ants.  I saw John drive by and a few minutes later saw him headed back our way and flagged him down.  He did not have the ant poison on his cart but offered to get it and come back, which he did.  He also brought a rake.  It turned out that he buys this product at his own expense and uses it to treat sites before folks check in, so I will buy a bag for ourselves and one to replenish his stock as part of my trip to Hudson tomorrow.

With the refill underway I resumed working on the photos for the BCM article on the International Thermal Research (ITR) OASIS Combi hydronic heating system in Butch and Fonda Willams’ 1987 MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The hospital tried to reach me at 12:14 PM but the call went directly to my voice mail.  After a few text messages back and forth with my sister and niece I received a phone number for the doctor and was able to get her on the phone.

Brendan texted me at 1 PM to let me know he was headed to our house.  He called when he got there and I called him back on our house phone.  He spent about half an hour searching through brief cases looking for certain papers and telling me what he was finding.  He found the case I needed and took it back to his house where he can go through it more comfortably and ship it to me if needed.

I had resumed working on the BCM article when John and Ali showed up.  We invited them into the coach to see the remodeling work we have done and they stayed long enough to chat awhile and have a small glass of wine.  I opened the bottle of Viva La Rojo from the Heart Of The Desert winery in Alamogordo, New Mexico and we all agreed it was very nice.  It is at such moments that I am left to wonder why we did not buy more than one bottle.

After they left I continued working on the article until I was too tired to concentrate.  It was well into the second half of the afternoon so we both put our projects aside and removed the fogged living room awning style window/frame, wrapped it in a blanket, and put it in the car.  I need to leave early in the morning and drive to Suncoast Designers in Hudson to have the window repaired and did not want to be messing around with it at 6 AM in the morning.

Getting the window out required the step ladder and a small screwdriver to remove two C-clips so it was a bit more involved than it sounds.  Linda put the screen back in place, covered it with a piece of the silvered bubble insulation, and taped it around the edges.  The RV resort is very safe so someone getting into our rig was not our concern.  Rather, the low temperature overnight Monday into Tuesday is forecast to be in the 40’s so we really cannot have an uninsulated opening in the side of the coach.  The chance for rain is low to zero, and we have the awning out over most of that window, so we are hopeful we will not have to seal the outside with plastic.  Our other concern was our cats.  The screens do not fit as tight as we would like and if this one fell out the cats could jump to their “freedom” with potentially dire consequences.

Linda made stuffed Poblano peppers for dinner.  The preparation took a while so I laid down on the sofa and watched Martha Bakes and Ask This Old House on the Create channel from the University of Florida, Gainesville PBS station.  What can I say?  I find TV that teaches me things entertaining, even if I can’t eat anything Martha bakes.  At home Linda would normally cook the peppers on our outdoor or indoor grill but tonight she pan-seared them.  The peppers were stuffed with a mixture of rice, black beans, tomatoes, scallions, vegan cheddar cheese, and vegan sour cream.  The peppers brought just enough heat to the dish and we finished the bottle of Viva La Rojo, which smoothed everything out.  We had a nice salad with sun-dried tomato vinaigrette as a first course.  We had sliced fresh strawberries for dessert.  It was a really good meal.

We watched President Obama’s address to the nation from the Oval Office, an interesting episode of 60 Minutes (which I have not seen in years), and the Sinatra 100 Grammy tribute.  It was an unusual evening of television for us but very enjoyable and a nice conclusion to a day that was broken up into multiple threads.

 

2015/12/05 (S) Saturday Night Fire Circle

I was awake at 6:30 AM and finally got up at 7:15.  I fed the cats and cleaned their litter tray, both of which are chores but I don’t mind doing them.  I sat on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back and finished yesterday’s blog post draft.  Linda got up at 8 AM having been awake since I got up.  At 8:20 I was going to make coffee but Juniper climbed in my lap so Linda took care of that chore, which is certainly one of our more pleasurable.

Linda worked on her counted cross-stitch project and I worked on our Holiday Letter all morning.  I had a finished draft by lunch time and Linda read through it.  I have it set up for 8.5×14 inch legal size paper, but printing it that way will depend on whether we can get high quality glossy color laser paper in that size.

Linda reheated the last of the red beans and rice for lunch after which I washed some grapes.  After lunch Linda continued to work on her project and I turned my attention to another article for Bus Conversion Magazine.

I had some correspondence with the publisher, Gary, yesterday regarding my article on servicing the Webasto burner bearings and decided to finish my article on Butch Williams’ installation of an International Thermal Research OASIS Combi in their MCI MC-9 NJT bus conversion.  The work was done in October and November 2014 and the article was basically written in January 2015 but I had not selected or processed any of the photos.

I read through the article, highlighted several places with missing information, and rewrote some things.  I then selected 36 photos and started processing them.  The processing involved various adjustments such as alignment, lighting, and color followed by resizing and sharpening in two different sizes.  The larger size is typically 1900 x 1272 pixels as that will fill the screen of a 17 inch monitor and I don’t feel a larger size is needed or supported by the level of detail in the images.  The smaller size is typically 300×200 pixels.  I embed the smaller images at the end of the Word document with the image number and a caption.  I used to embed them into the article but the editor and layout person need the ability to fit them into the layout and I ultimately developed enough confidence in them to do that.  This is always subject to change, however, as is everything connected with this magazine.

We had dinner at 5 PM, earlier than usual.  Linda made a nice green salad, sautéed and lightly glazed some baby carrots, and heated some Amy’s vegan macaroni and cheese.  The reason for the early dinner was the holiday parade down Main Street in Williston at 6 PM.  We left at 5:30 and walked to the corner of NE 5th Street and Main Street.  NE 5th Street is the street that leads back to the front entrance of the resort and is towards the end of the parade route, which comes down Main Street from west to east.  There were already people there, all from the RV Resort as near as we could tell, but we were early enough to get seats on the low brick wall that borders the parking lot for the funeral home.

Main Street is also US-27 but the police closed it down at 5:45 PM.  The parade started at the west end of Main Street by the high school so the lead police motorcycles did not reach us until 6:20 and the front of the main parade did not get to us until 6:30.  There were cars with beauty queens, simple floats with seasonal themes, Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops, politicians, fire trucks, horses, and an elephant with Santa Claus riding on top.  It was a classic small town holiday parade.  It was all over by 7 PM and we walked briskly back to the firepit.

The firepit at WCRVR is about eight feet in diameter, surrounded by a concrete floor ring about six feet wide and covered by an inverted conical roof about 24 feet wide at the lower eaves.  A massive 8 foot diameter inverted conical hood is suspended over the firepit and the 12″ diameter flue pipe runs out the center top of the roof.  The outside perimeter of the floor has large wooden rocking chairs (think Cracker Barrel restaurant), a bench, and a few other chairs and there is a little bit of lighting up in the ceiling.  It’s a wonderful place to sit and enjoy the fire, visit, and listen to people play their guitars and sing.  The flue does not draft correctly so it tends to be smokey, but that is the only downside.  If not for that it would be perfect.

John was there with a couple of other people and had a nice fire going.  Even though it was in the mid-to-upper 60s there was a strong north breeze and the fire felt good.  Lots of other people eventually showed up and filled almost all of the seats so John got his guitar and started playing and singing.  Linda walked back to our rig to fetch our plastic wine glasses and opened a bottle of Egri Merlot.  It’s a good life.

I got a call from my sister and stepped away from the firepit.  She called to let me know that our dad was back in the hospital.  When I returned to the fire circle John was busy playing and singing and some folks had left so I tended the fire.  By 9 PM everyone had left except for John, Ali, and us.  I continued to tend the fire while the four of us talked.  Just before 10 PM I spread out the last embers of the fire and we all returned to our rigs for the night except John, who does the closing rounds on weekends.

Back at our motorcoach Linda put on the Michigan State vs Iowa Big 10 Championship football game.  Though not particularly interested in football I was too tired to work so after sending an e-mail to our son I laid down on the sofa; the first time I have done that since we built it into the coach.  By the time the game was over it was 11:45 PM.  We watched a few minutes of Cook’s Country on Create and went to bed.  I turned the TV on in the bedroom then turned it off.  I turned down the brightness of my iPad display and with only the dim light of the ceiling vista, and whatever light could get in around the window shades, worked on my blog post until 1 AM.

 

2015/12/02 (W) Settling In

I was up at 7 AM, fed the cats, and settled in on the sofa with the heater pad on my lower right back to work on my iPad.  I finished my blog post for yesterday and e-mailed the last three days to myself.  I updated seven apps and then checked out the latest issue of the SKP Photographers BoF newsletter.  Linda finally got up at 9:15 AM.  I made a pot of coffee and we had toast for breakfast.

My first priority after breakfast was responding to a half-dozen e-mails from Gary at BCM, one of which required me to proofread an article he had written about a recent rally.  Next I selected four photos I took with our new Sony a99v DSLT camera and uploaded them to a Dropbox folder for Lou to see.  Somewhere in there I got a call from Joe (our mobile mechanic) about Globus cork flooring products.  As long as he was on the line I asked his opinion about the chassis battery / Vanner equalizer issue.  He reminded me, as he often does, that I already knew how to check if the Vanners were working.  When we concluded the call I went outside and did the checks.

With the Vanners connected to the batteries and working correctly the voltage at the “12V” terminal should be exactly 1/2 the voltage at the “24V” terminal.  Equivalently, the voltage from +24 to +12 should be the same as the voltage from +12 to Ground.  I unplugged the two maintenance chargers to let the surface charge bleed off and used the time to trace the wiring behind the two battery disconnect switches.  As I somewhat expected the two Vanner equalizers, which are wired in parallel, are NOT connected to the batteries when they are disconnected from the coach electrical panels.  (The one Vanner whose label I could see is a Voltmaster 60-50M rated at 50 Amps maximum so I presume the other one is the same model.)

With the battery bank connected the relative voltage measurements were as expected, indicating that the Vanners were probably working correctly while the absolute measurements of +25.6 and +12.8 (to the nearest 0.1 VDC) indicated that the batteries were fully charged.

I put the disconnect switches back in the disconnected position and plugged the maintenance chargers back in.  I checked the voltage on the upper and lower battery strands and they were close to the same but not identical.  That was reasonable given that the chargers were independent (electrically isolated) and the upper and lower strands were bridged by Vanner equalizers just minutes before.  Based on my testing it appeared that everything was OK except that I lacked a plausible explanation for why the engine alternator apparently did not fully charge the batteries yesterday on the drive down from Mayo.  I wrote all this up in an e-mail and sent it to Joe, Butch, and Chuck, all of whom have had conversations with me about this over the last few days.

Linda made a humus and onion on rye sandwich and we split it for lunch along with some grapes.  It rained hard while we were eating but the rain did not last long.  After lunch I completed the certification paperwork for our FMCA Freethinkers Associate Chapter.  It was 4:15 PM by the time I was done.  I will get copies made tomorrow and get it in the mail to the headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio.

I logged in to the Prevost Community website to renew our AITA NAPA discount card but wasn’t sure what to do, so I called Chuck.  He and Barbara were at a wine and cheese gathering and he said he would call me back when he was free.  Linda wanted to go for a walk around the Resort so at 4:30 we headed towards the north end.  This part of the Resort has had a lot of development since we were last here and now has a lot of new park models and large pads for RVs.

We looped around to John and Ali’s 5th wheel but did not see any sign of them so we headed down the main road towards Jeff and Kathy’s site.  Sure enough, John and Ali were there enjoying a glass of wine with Jeff and Kathy.  They offered us some and we accepted and pulled up a couple of open chairs.  We sat and visited until 6:30 PM when we started to get some persistent rain drops.  John drove us back to our coach in his golf cart.

For dinner Linda made a nice green salad and pan-seared tofu with a balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar glaze with chives.  It was very good and I could easily have eaten twice as much.  After dinner I worked on an article about replacing the bearings in our Aqua-Hot Webasto burner this past winter while we were on Quartzsite.  I got the text finished and inserted/captioned the photos that had been post-processed.  There are more photos to be processed and I plan to finish the article tomorrow and upload it to the Dropbox for proofreading.

I need, and have been looking forward to, a stretch of quiet days with time to work at my computer as I have a lot to do.  I need to update our website and blog, which is almost four months behind, and get back to work on the SLAARC, FMCA Freethinkers, and FMCA GLCC websites.  I also need to finish some articles for BCM that have been “in process” for quite a while, and I need/want to write some new ones.  Along the same lines I need to clean up my BCM folders on my hard drive and in our Dropbox.  That is not all going to happen by the time we leave for Arcadia, but I will do as much as I can.  Once we get to Arcadia we will be spending more time away from the coach exploring southern Florida and visiting with friends.  That means I will be creating lots of new photos and posts but have less time to process them.  Ahhhh, retirement.

 

2015/11/25 (W) T Minus 2 Days

We both got up at 7:45 AM.  My back felt OK when I went to sleep last night but it was not good by morning.  I don’t know if that is a result of being immobile and supine or just the Ibuprofen wearing off.  As painful as it is to get up it feels better once I do.  We both got dressed to work.  Linda prepared raisin toast and tea for breakfast while I positioned myself on the heater pad.  Linda was busy by a little after 9 AM and I was up and about by 9:30.

The first thing Linda did was take out the trash.  She called yesterday and stopped our pickups starting next week.  It took me an hour to finish organizing tools and supplies in the garage.  At that point I turned off the garage furnace and opened the overhead doors.  I started my car and turned it around with the back end facing the garage.  We moved all of the things that were going in the bus outside the larger door.  We then loaded a lot of the stuff into the car.  This is not a permanent arrangement but was merely for the convenience of getting packed for traveling.

I helped get the recycling tubs into Linda’s car.  Late morning she took them to the recycling center and stopped at two different banks to make club deposits.  I took care of some computer-based tasks while she was gone.  I finally got a reply from DataViz regarding a sync problem with Passwords Plus and sent the tech support person (Colin) a copy of the sync log from my computer.  I also managed to register the Sony flash and accessories I bought a month ago.  When Linda got back she made grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch and served them with fresh apple slices.  The cheese was Tomato Cayenne from Field Roast and it made for a tasty sandwich on rye bread from Metropolitan Baking Company.  I had a couple of Ibuprofen for dessert.

We disassembled the temporary work table in the garage and stored the sawhorses out of the way.  We shook out the floor mats (as best we could) and Linda used the ShopVac to vacuum the floor of the larger bay.  We finally had enough room to store her Honda Civic inside for the winter.  That will be the first time it has been stored inside since she bought it in 2007.

[ Photo 1 of 1 – HC – The large bay of garage ready to accept our Honda Civic for the winter.  This is the first time we have been able to put a car in the garage since we moved in to this house. ]

The large bay of garage ready to accept our Honda Civic for the winter.  This is the first time we have been able to put a car in the garage since we moved in to this house.

The large bay of garage ready to accept our Honda Civic for the winter. This is the first time we have been able to put a car in the garage since we moved in to this house.

We rearranged some things in the front of the smaller garage bay to make room for the large trash container, the wheelbarrow, several 10′ lengths of 1-1/4″ plastic conduit, 10 large paver blocks, and the mower deck for the Cub Cadet lawn tractor.  With those things stowed inside the concrete driveway was now free of objects that Kerry could have hit with his snowplow.

The tractor and 18 cubic foot trailer will remain in the yard alongside the driveway where we park the bus.  The tractor won’t start and we had no interest in pushing it uphill through snow.  We found our large plastic tarp the other day so we unrolled it, covered the tractor and trailer, folded the edges under, and weighed the edges down with landscape blocks.  Hopefully it will stay put through the winter.

With sunny skies and the temperature hovering around 50 degrees F I opened the house electrical bay on the bus.  We loaded the four toolboxes onto a hand truck, two at a time, and rolled them over to the bay where Linda got them stacked and pushed in.  We then loaded the two drill cases in front of the toolboxes and I closed up the bay.

Next we opened the passenger side engine bay door and replaced the main engine air filter.  It did not look that dirty but the new one was obviously very clean by comparison.  This air filter is a bit pricey at $130 plus tax but it is so critical to good engine performance that it does not make sense to try and save a few cents by not replacing it or trying to clean a used one and reuse it.

With the air filter changed we then pulled out the chassis battery tray.  It holds four Group 31 lead acid batteries and is very heavy.  It has a very heavy duty slide out tray but the tray is worn and lets the leading edge drop a little bit as it comes out.  That means we had to lift it as well as push it to get it back in.

We applied a 14″ strip of black Gorilla Tape to the horizontal frame member at the top of the compartment opening to prevent metal tools from coming in contact with the chassis, which is tied to the battery ground.  I got this idea from Chuck when I saw that he had done this to their coach.  There was some fine rust on top of the batteries but the connections were all tight and did not show signs of corrosion.  I should probably have cleaned them anyway but we had too much else to do.  I did notice, however, that one of the batteries was from 2009 and the other three were from 2010 so they may be due to replaced.

I opened the doors on both sides of the front bus bay and climbed in.  Linda carried stuff over from the driveway and the living room (of the house) and I figured out how to fit them into the space.  We have less stuff in the front bay then the last two winters but more stuff in the car.  The problem for the bay is that we have things in open topped cardboard boxes so I could not stack things the way I have in the past.

We were done with this phase of the loading process by 3 PM.  I had turned on the main engine block heater and the Aqua-Hot engine preheat loop at 1 PM.  I started the main engine to air up the suspension, leveled the coach, and then turned on the auxiliary air compressor to maintain it at level.  I was getting ready to pull my car around behind the bus so we could hook it up when I realized I should probably move the bus a little bit first to make sure the brakes were not locked up.  I backed it up a few feet and turn pulled it forward a little farther than where it started.  Linda checked the floor and it was level so I switched the suspension back to Level Low to help minimize leaks and hold the pressure.

I continued to let the bus run on high idle while we hooked up the car.  With all of the connections made I opened the air valve that supplies air to the auxiliary braking system in the car and went to the cockpit to activate the various lights while Linda checked them.  Everything checked out as OK.

With the bus still idling we carried the HP Color LaserJet network printer from my office in the basement upstairs and into the bus.  It was heavy and awkward but we got in into the bus.  I had to remove the center cover from between the desk pedestals and we had to get it into its alcove in the left pedestal from the knee space between the pedestals.  I was pleased, however, that it fit very comfortably in that space as the space was designed to hold this particular printer.

Once the printer was in we found the replacement black toner cartridge and put it on board.  Linda also carried the smaller APC UPS up from the rec room to the bus and I put it on the connector cover shelf.  I think there will also be room on the shelf for one of the NAS units.  The newer one is physically smaller but has more storage capacity and is faster but my plan us to take the larger/older/slower one.

We were done with this phase of the loading process at 4 PM.  Our next task was to replace the screen insert from the front door of the house with the storm door insert.  Linda turned her attention to preparing food for our family gathering tomorrow and I stripped the bed, took all of the laundry to the laundry room, and started a load of whites.

My back was making me aware that I had worked it harder today than it would have liked so I took a few more Ibuprofen and settled in on the sofa with the heater pad.  Juniper found my lap almost immediately and stayed there until just before 6:30 PM when I had to get up for dinner.

Linda heated up a couple of Amy’s curry and rice frozen dinners and served them with the remaining kale/almond/raisin salad.  After dinner Linda started packing non-refrigerated food items in paper grocery bags for moving to the bus.  I brought all of my photography equipment upstairs to repack but left that for later.  I went downstairs and pulled two additional sets of BCM issues plus extra copies of some of the issues in which I have had articles.  I boxed the sets, labeled them, and brought them upstairs.

By the time I replied to a few e-mails it was after 9 PM.  We could have worked until midnight but we had both had enough for the day.  I settled in on the living room sofa with the heater pad on my back.  In spite of wearing a knee brace Linda’s right knee was bothering her all day so she took some Ibuprofen and we both went to bed.  We watched Weather Nation for a while and then went to sleep.

Tomorrow will be a long day but of a different sort.  In the morning we will finish loading the bus and I will check/adjust the pressures in all of the bus and car tires.  We are due at our daughter’s house at noon for Thanksgiving dinner and will probably stay until 7 PM. That evening, after we get home, we will winterize the plumbing in the house and spend the night on the bus in final preparation for our departure for Florida the following morning.